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UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. 



THE OPEN AIE 



SKETCHES OUT OF TOWS 



JOSEPH VEREY 

AUTHOR OF "LOST FOOTSTEPS," ETC. ETC. 



'^^ 



LONDON 

TINSLEY BEOTHEES, 18, CATHEEXNE STEEET, STEANB 

MDCCCLXIX 



7ft r?° 3 



PRINTED BY 
CHARLES JONES, "WEST HARDING STREET. 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER I. page 

Quiet Hours in the City .......... 1 

CHAPTER II. 
My First Excursion 15 

CHAPTER III. 
An Autumn Morning ............ 29 

CHAPTER IV. 
Sunday in the Country 44 

CHAPTER V. 
By the Sea 57 

CHAPTER VI. 
A Voyage on the Iceberg 71 

CHAPTER VII. 
Social and Political , 91 

CHAPTER VIII. 
The Mountains , 105 

CHAPTER IX. 
Contrasts 120 

CHAPTER X, 
Surrey Landscapes 131 

CHAPTER XI. 
Night in the Country ........... 146 



11 CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER XII. ^GE 

Twenty Years Ago ............. 158 

CHAPTER XIII. 

With Tennyson in the Fens .........171 

CHAPTER XIV. 

Winter out of Town ............ 183 

CHAPTER XV. 

River Scenery .............. 195 

CHAPTER XVI. 

Pleasure Gardens ............. 205 

CHAPTER XVII. 

A Balloon Voyage ............. 218 

CHAPTER XVIII. 

Agricultural Labourers ........... 240 

CHAPTER XIX. 

A Village Church ............. 257 

CHAPTER XX. 

Country Houses .............. 265 

CHAPTER XXI. 

On Tramp ................ 276 



THE OPEN AIE; 

OR, 

SKETCHES OUT OF TOWN. 



CHAPTER I. 

QUIET HOUKS IN THE CITY. 

It was lately suggested in a high-class 
journal that it would be convenient for the 
critic if the author, in publishing a book, 
invariably stated his aim. Adopting this 
advice, let me say, then, to begin with, 
that my aim is — to paraphrase a familiar 
couplet — 

To tempt some to love Nature who never loved her before, 
And those who always loved her to love her yet the more. 

That is, in fact, the sum and substance of 
the following pages. 

After a youth spent in a pleasant district, 



2 THE OPEN AIE. 

considerably removed from any great manu- 
facturing centre, I was compelled to turn 
out into the world and seek such fortune 
as fate might have in store for me; and 
at length, when sick at heart, friendless, 
and almost despairing, I obtained employ- 
ment which promised a sufficient income 
for my daily wants and a fair amount of 
leisure. 

I cannot say that I took kindly at first 
to my new occupation, for it was in the 
heart of the city of London, and from a 
boy I had the greatest dislike of towns. 
For the first year I was miserable. The 
loss of the broad open sky, the trees, hills, 
and meadows, and, most of all, the pleasant 
Thames, which flowed almost within sight 
of my country home, seemed for a time to 
rob me of half my faculties. Added to 
this was the terrible loneliness of the city. 
Noise is not society, and I had no pleasant 
places to visit in the vicinity of town ; of 



QUIET HOUES IN THE CITY. 3 

my friends many were scattered, some to 
distant lands, some by death, and the 
nearest were fifty miles away. When the 
hour came round for closing the ware- 
house, and I saw the spruce cheerful city 
men hurrying by the train and omni- 
bus to well-kept villas a few miles away, 
where they could at least cultivate a few 
flowers and get a peep at the sky, I was 
wretched, but in time I became more re- 
conciled to my lot, and made the best of 
it. I saw, as I learned more of city life, 
what a terrible struggle worthy, earnest, 
clever men sometimes had to earn mere 
daily bread — how their whole time, taste, 
feeling, and talent became absorbed into 
their occupations till — 

Men grew so like machinery — 

Machinery like men, 
That now to trace the two apart 

Would puzzle tongue and pen. 

I was at least not entirely engrossed 

b 2 



4 THE OPEN AIR. 

by my occupation, and as time passed 
I wrapped myself in my solitude, and 
became indifferent to the world around 
me. 

I was not wanting in sympathy for the 
busy crowds that thronged those narrow 
thoroughfares daily. God forbid ! I can 
say with solemn truth that I never despised 
a single human being. I look upon each 
human soul as a grand Possibility — a 
something that cannot be mapped out or 
measured by the most acute of critics or 
the most cynical of philosophers. Try to 
imagine, for instance, the inner life of any 
striving mortal, whose weary footsteps 
echo upon these worn flagstones, and you 
repent in a moment your hasty scorn or 
fallible judgment. Possibly a thousand 
feet have hurried past in a few seconds, 
and, amidst all the wealth, poverty, pas- 
sion, vice, ignorance, or knowledge distri- 
tributed through that mass of humanity, 



QUIET HOUES IN THE CITY. 

there may not be found one soul that has 
made more than a superficial impress upon 
the world around it; yet there may be 
lying dormant in many — even in most — 
some of the noblest impulses of human 
nature. 

Pardon this expression of feeling. I 
would not be thought selfish because I am 
reserved. Indeed, it is not so easy after all 
to lose faith in humanity. Look at the 
poor ; how they suffer, how they strive ; 
how patient, how generous they are to 
each other ; how much there is to admire, 
and even to imitate ! It is not, then, be- 
cause I am misanthropic that I am lonely : 
I believe it is chiefly my own diffidence 
that shuts me from society, for I cannot en- 
dure formal introductions. In my country 
home any familiar remark about the wea- 
ther, the change of the seasons, or any 
peculiarity in nature, served to throw down 
the barrier between myself and any un- 



b THE OPEN AIR. 

known face, and all restraint was at an 
end at once. 

My occupation did not bring me either 
much in contact with my fellow men. I 
was the London agent of a foreign house, 
and the business was done mainly by cor- 
respondence. One of the partners came 
twice in the year to balance the books 
with me, and I brushed up my German 
and showed Herr Lowenthal the sights of 
London for a few days, with perhaps the 
rare dissipation of a visit to the Opera. 
Then for months again I relapsed into my 
dreamy mechanical life, and sometimes 
scarcely spoke a word from the time my 
office opened till dusk. I had about fifty 
customers to attend to, and they were 
men who bought largely, and with a very 
few words. A nod, or a raised eyebrow, 
settled a heavy purchase. 

Until my residence in the heart of the 
city I had never known how much I loved 



QUIET HOUES IN THE CITY. 7 

the country. Many a quiet hour of the 
twilight, when the human tide had ebbed 
for the day, I wandered about the lanes 
eastward of the Royal Exchange brooding 
on my past happiness, seldom disturbed 
by a passing footstep, for the few who 
were left in the city after business hours 
were not of a rambling disposition. The 
contrast between the bustle of midday and 
the evening calm was really striking. 

When tired of wandering about, or when 
wet weather kept me indoors, I fell back 
upon my books or took up my violin. I 
could make as much noise as I pleased: 
there was no one to complain. The old 
housekeeper who had charge of the cham- 
bers was a deaf as a post. The poor old 
creature, after having all sprightliness buf- 
fetted out of her upon the stormy ocean of 
life, had drifted into this office as into a 
very harbour of refuge, and was, to speak 
nautically, "laid up high and dry," with 



8 THE OPEN AIR. 

no desire for another voyage. Sometimes 
a runaway peal at the bell would startle 
me after the office was closed, but my 
housekeeper was utterly oblivious to the 
annoyance, and never went to the door. 

There were times, of course, when I 
could find no interest in the most agree- 
able book, when my violin seemed to have 
lost all its tone, and when Memory, seizing 
me in her vigorous grasp, would not part 
from me till she had left for my companion 
her shadowy sister — Regret. Then came 
visions of a pleasant window looking out 
upon an almost perfect garden, and the 
echoes of kindly voices waking me as of 
old from a delicious dream, in which by 
some mysterious process the odours of the 
garden and field were mingled with soft 
winds and murmurs of the stream. When 
aroused from my reverie there were only 
the narrow windows and smoke-stained 
walls of the opposite houses, enlivened on 



QUIET HOUES IN THE CITY. 9 

sunny days by a birdcage, whose me- 
lancholy tenant had forgotten his native 
woodland strains, and chirped a feeble 
accompaniment to the noise of the street. 

Ah, well ! I had chosen my occupation, 
and must make the best of it. I had found 
a shelter in these gloomy streets, and a 
means of earning a living when my poor 
father's little property was lost. I could 
live without excessive labour or anxiety — 
that was something, and my personal 
tastes must be consulted at some indefinite 
period in the future, when, having made a 
fortune, I could once more retire to that 
simple country life which I so much 
regretted. 

As may be expected from a man of my 
temperament, the fortune never came, but 
as time progressed I was enabled to 
arrange business matters so as to take 
frequent journeys into the country, and 
sometimes abroad ; and this consoled me. 



10 



THE OPEN AIR. 



Perhaps it is owing to my solitude in the 
city that I find my enthusiasm for nature 
yearly becoming stronger. It may be also 
that I have a vein of poetry in my com- 
position which yields more abundantly the 
more it is worked, for each year that I go 
to the mountains, the woods, or the sea, I 
learn more from them than I can discover 
in any book lore, and see more than is ever 
delineated by Academy painters. 

It is the record of these happy moments 
which I now attempt to place before the 
reader. Some hints of foreign travel there 
are, but mainly the sketches are to be found 
at home. English landscape is worthy of 
our utmost admiration and affection. Beau- 
tiful in itself, it is linked with human asso- 
ciations full of noble and romantic interest. 
It was not without reason that Nathaniel 
Hawthorne craved for American literature 
those memories which make many a little 
rustic churchyard — many a mouldering 



QUIET HOUES IN THE CITY. 11 

tower, mossy wall, or pointed gable — many 
a green hillside or shadowy avenue — land- 
marks in English history from generation 
to generation. It was not without reason 
that he envied the ivy-covered battle- 
ments of many a noble pile, where, from 
father to son through past centuries, noble 
names and noble deeds have kept their 
honourable companionship to the present 
day. 

It is pleasant also to wander, as one may, 
far from manufacturing towns and dense 
seaports, to lonely shores where the lapping 
waves echo no music but their own, and 
where only the light footsteps of their 
breaking foam imprint the solitary leagues 
of sand. Pleasant to wander, as one may 
in Sussex, mile after mile, over breezy 
downs and lofty headlands, almost at- 
taining to the dignity of mountains, and 
covered with delicious short grass and 
odorous wild thyme, with the ocean raging 



12 THE OPEN AIK. 

and storming beneath them, and many a 
mile of woody landscape dotted with man- 
sion and spire stretching far away inland, 
yet so remote, so barren in themselves, 
that I have dreamt away a long summer's 
clay upon them, and come back to the road- 
side inn in the quiet village at night, with- 
out meeting a single person. 

Tourists who run down to a bustling 
watering-place, or visit a friend at some 
thriving farm, scarcely imagine what real 
solemn grandeur is sometimes very near 
to them. They follow the beaten track, 
and are not aware what they lose, for guide- 
books deal mainly with the towns, railway- 
stations, hotels, and so forth. 

In my yearly wanderings I have sought 
out these unfrequented spots in order that 
the contrast with my city life might be 
the greater, and I have been well rewarded. 
If sometimes my fare has been rough, and 
my bedroom little better than a hayloft, I 



QUIET HOURS IN THE CITY. 13 

have been compensated by the absence of 
conventionality, by meeting with quaint 
and new types of character, and by a certain 
originality which is completely rounded off 
by town life. I glorify Nature, because I 
believe that when we keep Nature in sight 
we have an antidote to much of the world's 
folly and deception. 

Thus quietly glided away several years 
of my life. Sometimes in the summer I 
passed my leisure evenings at Kew, Eich- 
mond, or Hampstead, but had not spent a 
night out of the City, when a letter from 
Herr Lowenthal apprised me that an ad- 
dition would be made to the agency which 
would necessitate my keeping an assistant. 
It was a welcome change for me, as it pro- 
mised an improvement of my income and 
greater liberty. The old love of Nature 
which I had found so difficult to repress 
returned to me stronger than ever, and I 
made fifty plans for country rambles before 



14 QUIET HOURS IN THE CITY. 

the day was over on which I received Herr 
Lowenthal's letter. 

I was fortunate, too, in my assistant. 
He was a young German of good family 
who wished to acquaint himself with Eng- 
lish life and improve himself in the lan- 
guage. He was soon capable of managing 
without assistance the ordinary business of 
the agency, and, availing myself of my 
unwonted liberty, I frequently left London. 



THE OPEN AIR. 15 



CHAPTER II. 



MY FIEST EXCURSION. 



It is a fancy of mine that the really 
beautiful scenery within easy reach of Lon- 
don is not enough appreciated. Foreigners, 
for instance, are enraptured with Kent, 
while Londoners travel hundreds of miles 
to view inferior scenery. 

Kent has one peculiarity in which it is 
not be surpassed by any county in England, 
perhaps not equalled. This is in the ex- 
quisite colouring of its landscapes. Partly 
from the soil, partly from the variety of its 
cultivation, and the fine undulating for- 
mation of the land, the eye is gladdened by 
a richness and glow of colour, especially in 



ID THE OPEN AIE. 

the height of summer, which is hardly to 
be equalled. Tennyson, who spent some 
years of his early life upon the hills near 
Maidstone, notices this quality of the 
Kentish landscape, and it may readily be 
detected in his poems, as, for instance, 
where he speaks of 

A land of hops and poppy-mingled corn, 

and many other equally apparent though 
less direct allusions. We may wander 
from field to field enjoying the perfumes 
of the red clover and the bean-field — pass 
through the undulating grass ready for the 
scythe, and skirt the military -looking ranks 
of the hop-ground — dip down into some 
sheltered lane where the banks seem per- 
fectly alive with wild flowers of every shape 
and hue, for the Kentish wild flowers are 
famous all over the world. Then, upon 
some rising ground, we look out upon the 
windings of the Medway, with here and 



MY FIEST EXCURSION. 17 

there a brown sail in boldest relief against 
the rich foliage upon the banks, or the dis- 
tant range of chalky hills, where the white 
patch of a quarry makes an effective con- 
trast with the dark underwood. Add to 
this the hoary spire of some ancient church, 
the comfortable gables of farmhouses in a 
very nest of trees, and you have the outline 
of many a pleasant Kentish landscape. 

But of course the hop-ground is the most 
distinctive feature, and the sharp clear 
outline of a forest of hop-poles, covered 
with a profusion of the dark beautifully- 
shaped leaves, and, as the season advances, 
enriched with the brilliant golden hue of 
the hops themselves, makes a most effective 
object upon the side of a steep hill, or as a 
foreground to a dark wood. These situ- 
ations are frequently chosen, not for their 
picturesqueness, but because of the shelter 
which a hill or a wood affords against the 
wild winds of the spring. The vivid 

c 



18 THE OPEN AIR. 

colour already alluded to is greatly height- 
ened by the rich tone of the earth in the 
neighbourhood of the hop-ground ; for in 
hop cultivation it is essential above all 
things to exterminate those fanciful cling- 
ing plants and flowers which add such 
beauty to the wild hedgerows. The hop 
brooks no rival near its throne. 

The hop-ground has frequently been 
compared with the foreign vineyard, gene- 
rally with somewhat of an apologetic tone ; 
but this, I fancy, arises from the tendency 
of humau nature to suppose that distance 
lends enchantment to the view. For my 
own part I consider the vineyards I have 
seen to be anything but jjicturesque. Mile 
after mile in the south of France the country 
is covered with dwarf vines, scarcely more 
graceful than an ordinary gooseberry bush, 
while the hop, from its height and contrast 
with other objects in Nature, makes an 
imposing figure, and, when festooned from 



MY FIRST EXCUESION. 19 

pole to pole, the golden clusters hang in the 
greatest profusion, ready for the picker, it 
is hard to imagine a more beautiful system 
of cultivation. A visitor from some of the 
barren northern moors going into Kent 
during the autumn must imagine himself 
in an earthly paradise. The mellow glow 
of the declining woods, the bright hues of 
the ripening hops, the violec tints upon 
the distant hills, especially towards sunset, 
the starry brilliancy of a million wild 
flowers upon every bank, make a perpetual 
feast for the lover of Nature. 

The visitor to Kent, however, during 
the hop-picking season, must be cautioned 
not to be over fastidious, for he will most 
likely meet with some of the queerest spe- 
cimens of humanity he has ever encoun- 
tered. Attracted by the free vagrant 
Bohemian kind of life, and the prospect of 
fair wages, Kent is invaded during the 
month of September by an army which is 

c 2 



20 THE OPEN AIE. 

at once a study for the painter and philo- 
sopher. Where and how such a miscel- 
laneous assortment of ragamuffins have 
been quartered during the remaining eleven 
months of the year is a marvel and a mys- 
tery; but, punctual as the season itself, 
they appear. Large numbers of them are 
Irish, and come prepared to spend a few 
weeks in the open air. Pots and kettles, 
fryingpans and gridirons, bundles of rags 
to serve for bedding, with here and there, 
among the more provident, an old blanket 
or railway rug, not to mention a few un- 
considered trifles picked up from the 
hedges,, lawns, and gardens of pretty villas 
on the line of march — nowhere else can 
be witnessed such a picturesque variety in 
rags, sometimes patched with pieces of 
twenty different shades of colour, some- 
times unheeded and frankly revealing 
spaces of tawny skin. Swallow-tailed coats 
picked up in Houndsditch, which once per- 



MY FIEST EXCUESION. 21 

haps covered the elegant forms of young 
nobles in Belgravia, trail at the wearers' 
heels. Hats and bonnets of every known 
manufacture, and in every stage of decay, 
decorate the heads of the dusty wayfarers, 
while in some cases the travellers defend 
their uncombed heads from the blazing 
sun with a flaming red or yellow handker- 
chief. So they tramp along, begging with- 
out any false shame from the passengers 
they meet, sometimes enlivened by the 
performance of a popular air upon a cracked 
flute or accordion, with such of its keys 
as remain unbroken ; at other times, when 
instrumental harmony is wanting, dropping 
down under a shady hedge, and waking 
the echoes of the distant hills with some 
roystering chorus picked up in St. Giles's, 
Bermondsey, or Whitechapel. 

It must be said in favour of this motley 
crew that there is seldom anything to fear 
from them. They are generally a thought- 



22 THE OPEN AIE. 

less heedless set, not without some kindly 
feeling in the midst of their rags and 
wretchedness, which they show in fre- 
quently bringing down with them poor 
relatives and friends who are consumptive, 
or suffering from chronic diseases, for the 
benefit of the air and the tonic effects of 
the hop-grounds. 

When they arrive upon the scene of 
action, as soon as they have obtained em- 
ployment, their next care is respecting 
cooking and sleeping. It is complete 
gypsy life, very few of them attempting 
to get lodgings, which, indeed, they would 
not readily obtain, for amongst the rural 
population the "hopper" is looked upon 
as an outcast almost beyond the pale of 
ordinary humanity. Consequently, when 
the labour of the day is over, the pickers 
huddle together into any shelter they can 
find — shed, stable, temporary tent, mud 
hut, or the warm side of a haystack — where, 



MY FIEST EXCURSION. 23 

with a little loose straw for his pillow, the 
tired vagrant sleeps till wakened by the 
blithe carol of a bird in a neighbouring 
tree. 

It is a savage life and seems unfavour- 
able to morality, yet I hope and believe 
in a time when the poor man who has to 
toil for his daily bread will so understand 
and value the simple, pure, and inex- 
haustible pleasures which have long been 
waiting for his enjoyment, that he will 
gain some self-respect, and endeavour to 
take higher ground even in an occupation 
so humble as that of hop-picking. 

We cannot hope entirely to change the 
habits of a lifetime, but we may make all 
mankind happier in the future by applying 
our remedies to the young. I have been 
surprised and sorry to see that in the beau- 
tiful districts I have visited no effort is 
made to implant a love of Nature in the 
minds and hearts of the young. The in- 



24 THE OPEN AIE. 

fluence of the railway, however beneficial 
in a material sense, has its drawbacks, and 
town fashions, town pleasures, town habits 
and manners are carried into the remotest 
villages. 

The vices and follies which pass almost 
unnoticed in the glare and hurry of huge 
towns become offensively apparent when 
imported into the quiet homestead. What 
a noble task for those who have the leisure 
and opportunity, to attract the minds and 
feelings of the young towards those in- 
fluences which will counteract whatever is 
flashy and unreal ! 

There is a vast amount of ignorance and 
vice yet to be eradicated from many of 
those picturesque hamlets. Knowledge 
comes, but wisdom lingers, and the world 
is more and more encroaching upon our 
tastes and habits of thought. But we have 
one remedy against whatever is base and 
sordid — the love of Nature. 



MY FIEST EXCUKSION. 25 

In the love of Nature and the study of 
her marvels we have one of the chief per- 
manent sources of enjoyment. Other plea- 
sures weary us; there is a sameness in them, 
a want of variety, which no art can supply. 
There is also an effort which fatigues us 
easily, and in many sports and amuse- 
ments there is an appeal to the senses and 
the passions which often creates a degree 
of feverish excitement and leaves a cor- 
responding reaction after. But there is 
nothing in Nature to rouse an angry passion 
or debased feeling. There is nought in 
the tranquil flow of the stream, the light 
and shade upon the distant hill, the gor- 
geous hues of the sky, the rush of the 
waterfall, or the cloud-capped mountain, to 
awaken envy, hatred, malice, or any un- 
charitableness. There is nothing likely to 
call up feelings and desires, which, if they 
do not lead to actual crime, lower us in 
our own eyes and make us regret our want 



26 THE OPEN AIR. 

of self-control. Neither is there anything 
to cause us even a momentary sorrow. The 
more closely we examine God's wonderful 
works, and the better we understand them, 
the more shall we be convinced that in 
their beauty He intended as valuable a 
service to humanity as in their usefulness. 
And in the study of Nature we also learn 
how wonderfully all the lower forms of life 
are linked to ourselves by almost imper- 
ceptible bonds. It is often remarked how 
insensible the inhabitants of rural districts 
are to the beauties which surround them, 
but it will be generally found that this 
apathy is just in proportion to the igno- 
rance of the locality. Once give them un- 
derstanding, and life becomes larger from 
that moment. If the imagination has never 
been appealed to, how is it possible to 
comprehend the inner spirit of all creation ? 
It requires cultivation before a man can 
feel that there is use in beauty, and beauty 



MY FIRST EXCURSION. 27 

in use — that a thousand simple common- 
place objects have in them the germ of all 
that is grandest in Nature ? Until this 
knowledge is gained man views the glory 
that surrounds him as Wordsworth's pedlar 
looked at the Primrose — 



A primrose by a river's brim 

A yellow primrose was to him, 

And it was nothing more. 



"But what should it be more?" asked a 
jovial farmer in Kent to whom I quoted 
the lines. I endeavoured in a humble 
way to make my good-humoured country 
friend enter into the depth of the poet's 
meaning. It required no little skill and 
patience to make him understand that state 
of feeling in which the meanest flower that 
blows may bring 

Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears. 

This is one point of education which 



28 MY FIRST EXCURSION. 

has never been insisted upon. Our public 
speakers and writers, when deploring the 
vast ignorance of the land, are apt to en- 
large mainly upon the material benefits of 
education. They point out how much more 
rapidly men may advance in wealth and 
position by increased knowledge. They 
should remember also the inestimable gain 
to morality when the mind becomes 
awakened to influences so pure and ele- 
vating, so opposed to vice and folly, as 
those of Nature. 



THE OPEN AIE. 29 



CHAPTER III. 

AN AUTUMN MORNING. 

A sense of something missing ; a feel- 
ing in our secret hearts that to-day is not as 
yesterday — that we are, we scarcely know 
why, less eager, less enthusiastic ; a vague 
unconscious craving for something which 
seems suddenly to have been taken from us 
ere we were fully alive to the joy of its 
possession ; all this, blended with other in- 
definite influences too indistinct for words, 
yet taking a strong hold upon the feelings, 
and perhaps only to be interpreted by 
very fine and original music, oppresses 
me with a feeling of sadness as I look 
out upon the landscape from the window 



30 THE OPEN AIR. 

of the pretty roadside inn where I am 
staying. 

Asking myself why this should be — 
endeavouring to analyze my feelings, to 
discover why I should be sad on such a day 
as this, when leagues of gorgeously-tinted 
cloud make more ethereal than ever the soft 
blue spaces between, there arises a myste- 
rious whisper, which seems an answer to 
my very thoughts, in the boughs beneath 
my window, and a shower of russet leaves 
fall upon the grass. That is the secret — 
summer has passed : all its glow, warmth, 
and glory, all its brightness and splendour, 
fade into the remembrance of summer past. 
It is the first day of autumn, which has 
come to us early, and, like grey hairs upon 
the head and wrinkles on the brow, has 
stolen upon us almost unperceived : a visitor 
scarcely expected yet, and not wholly wel- 
come. 

We rejoiced in the warm sun and the 



AUTUMN MORNING. 31 

brilliant sky of the season just departed, 
and, now that we look around more closely, 
we see that many of the trees are looking 
bare, and their leaves turning red, yellow, 
and brown. Involuntarily we reckon up 
the weeks of dripping rain, the roaring 
tempestuous nights, the chill blasts, the 
murky skies, and muddy pathways, the 
biting frost, and heaped-up snow of the 
approaching season, which must come and 
go ere the pleasant time which is departing 
can be ours again. 

That a gentle sadness should touch the 
heart with the first days of autumn is 
natural enough. The time has much in it 
to recall other feelings than those merely 
external. Perhaps we are reminded by it 
that our youth also has departed — that we 
shall never more feel that simple gladness 
in our every-day lives and habits which 
is especially a privilege of the young. 
Never more shall we glow with that enthu- 



32 THE OPEN AIR. 

siasm which made us wonder then why 
moralist and philosopher could find it in 
their hearts to say such bitter things of the 
world and its ways. It is well for us, as we 
look back with regret upon many a pleasant 
self-deception, if we can still retain a little 
of our youthful freshness to carry us on- 
ward toward the winter of life and sweeten 
the pangs of inevitable decay. So, when 
the first regret with which we watch the 
falling leaf, the shortening day, the mist 
upon the stream, the cloud-shadow upon 
the hill, or listen to the deepening note of 
the waterfall in the valley, has passed 
away, it is well also to mark the charm 
and beauty of the immediate season, and 
to notice how gradually, how kindly in 
Nature, as in human life, we are prepared 
for great changes — how often the great 
change of all comes to us more like a 
dream, and we glide as to a gentle slum- 
ber from the toil, the care, the sorrow, and 



AUTUMN MOENING. 33 

the sin, into the unfathomable mysteries of 
the world beyond the tomb. 

Each season has its special sights and 
sounds, its special loveliness. One of the 
first marked indications of the season is 
the dry rustling of the boughs, so different 
in tone, so distinctive as compared with 
the sealike roar of the full-foliaged trees in 
the height of summer. The sky when fair 
is softer in tone. We lose that keen bril- 
liancy which, when reflected upon a still 
lake or gently-flowing stream, almost 
startled us with its minute portraiture of 
the skies above; we lose the fierce glare 
of the sun which drove us to the depth of 
the forest for shelter and shade. But we 
gain other enjoyments. There can be no 
more agreeable time to spend in the open 
air than the early autumn. The mellow 
light of a September sun warms without 
dazzling, and cheers without exciting us. 
If we ramble in the woods we have the 



34 THE OPEN AIE. 

freshness of the fallen leaves as we trample 
them underfoot, and the varied colours of 
the waning leaves upon the branches. If 
we mount the breezy hill, we look down 
with calm unwinking- eyes upon the mel- 
low landscape, where the contrasts of 
colour are more effective than at any other 
time of the year, and the distant views 
are free from the glimmering haze which 
too frequently deadens the beauty of a fine 
prospect upon intensely hot days. The 
winding stream, swollen by gentle rains, 
rises to kiss the drooping foliage and hide 
the ugliness of the muddy bank. Its tiny 
voice as it trickled all summer over the 
weir has now grown to a full-throated roar 
as the mimic cascade sparkles in the light 
between the heavy foliage. It is so clear, 
so calm, so quiet all around us, that the 
whistling of the idle lad in a neighbouring 
field or the sharp yelping of a sheep-dog 
seems marvellously near. There is a sense 



AUTUMN MOKNING. 35 

of plenty, too, in the autunm which has a 
cheering effect. The rosy beauty of the 
orchard, where the branches droop beneath 
their golden burden, and the luscious glow 
of ripening fruit upon the sunny garden 
wall, blended with the clustering bunches 
drooping from the vine, have each their 
own charm. 

The harvest is over. In the last magni- 
ficent burst of sunshine, horse, waggon, 
and man triumphantly grappled with the 
billowy golden acres. They have housed 
it to the last sheaf, like conquerors as they 
are, worthy of their spoil. Now, after the 
rain, the wild flowers are peeping again 
between the military lines of the stubble ; 
the hedges are dusky with millions of 
blackberries ; and we see heads and arms 
scrambling in picturesque confusion, nut- 
ting in the neighbouring wood. There 
is an air of repose about the farmyard, 
as though a little leisure and enjoyment 

d 2 



36 



THE OPEN AIE. 



must be taken before hard work is begun 
again. 

The mellow tint of the autumn is upon 
all we see. We wander from one spot 
to another, careless whether we roam in 
shadow or sunshine, for the sun is not 
unkindly nor the shadow gloomy. No 
better time than this for a long tramp 
through Devonshire, or among the beau- 
tiful lakes; no better time for kindly 
friends, out for a long tramp, joyous and full 
of hope, loving books and men, and with a 
genuine enthusiasm for Nature, to pour 
forth in genial confidences by the wayside 
their dreams and ambitions. What if a 
fourth of it comes to nought ? What if the 
golden aspirations leave but a pleasant 
memory in age ? Even that is something. 
For well may he be pitied who, looking 
back upon the memory-pictures of his 
earlier days, finds only gloom and disap- 
pointment there. He has not held true 



AUTUMN MOENING. 37 

communion with Nature, or she would not 
thus have deserted him in the autumn of 
his days. 

The delicate influences of the atmos- 
phere, which mark so decisively the boun- 
daries of each season, are very apt to 
escape the notice of the townsman; yet 
even in the suburbs of large towns they 
are quite worthy of observation. True, it 
is difficult sometimes to detect the golden 
haze of an autumn fog beneath a canopy 
of smoke, and glowing autumn sunsets 
look dim and dull in the neighbourhood 
of a factory chimney ; but they are worth 
watching under any disadvantages. 

At no time do we find greater beauty in 
the garden, especially in those where some- 
what of a classic taste has been displayed. 
The soft mellow tints of the autumn blend 
so harmoniously with the white gleam of a 
statue or elegant vase ; and there is some- 
thing, too, in such ornamentation which 



38 THE OPEN AIR. 

recalls human associations in the most 
pleasing way. Sometimes arrangements 
of this kind charm us like the combina- 
tions of fine harmony in music, with a 
deep sombre background of heavy leaves 
and far-spreading branches as the funda- 
mental chords of the composition, while 
gradual changes of colour and form blend 
till we get the melody, as it were, in the 
graceful outlines of the glowing flowers at 
our feet, with here and there some bolder 
object — a tall isolated tree, a sweep of 
open grass, a fountain, or fanciful bank to 
break the monotony of regular lines. Gar- 
dens such as these are seen to perfection 
in the autumn. 

And never can we enjoy a book so well 
as in the autumn. Generally the winds 
of spring are too keen, the skies too fickle, 
to trust ourselves to a sunny bank, or a 
lounge beneath a tree. In the full blaze 
of summer one is more apt to dream and 



AUTUMN MOKNING. 39 

build castles in the air — more apt to let 
the quaint witch Memory weave her spells 
about us, than to think, feel, or reason 
upon any present topic ; but there is just 
sufficient glow yet — just sufficient fresh- 
ness, too, in the atmosphere to stimulate 
the fancy, and the vague sadness already 
alluded to, blending our human associa- 
tions with natural objects, encourages re- 
flection. Much of Tennyson's poetry has 
been conceived in the autumn, as any 
careful reader may discover. The wind- 
blown tree, the falling leaf, the mist, 
the cloud, the ruddy sunset gilding the 
hills and purpling the horizon ; these and 
other graceful and pathetic images speak 
to us of the waning year, its lessons, its 
charms, its associations and regrets. In- 
deed, it would be hard to imagine a poet 
who had not felt the influences of the 
autumn. Let any lover of poetry dip into 
Keats, and read slowly and thoughtfully 



-40 THE OPEN AIE. 

his wonderful " Ode to Autumn." There 
is hardly such another cabinet picture in 
the same space. We have the whole feel- 
ing, sense, and portraiture of the season in 
a few musical and suggestive lines. It is 
real poetry indeed ! 

How often we feel that autumn has much 
the same relation to other seasons that the 
meditative man has to the man of action. 
What restless striving eagerness in the 
youth of genius, who comes like spring, 
brilliant and full of promise, with alternate 
smiles and sighs quickly following each 
other as his hopes are raised or depressed 
by every sunny gleam of success or cloud 
of failure ! What bold energetic measures, 
what daring resolutions, what power, cou- 
rage, and ambition fill the summer blaze 
of manhood ! For a time the world seems 
too small for the kindling desires, the 
frenzy of achievement, the scope, resources, 
and possibilities of his intellect and will ; 



AUTUMN MORNING. 41 

but soon the heat of pursuit brings fatigue 
and weariness. Ambition may with a bold 
leap place itself at once upon the daring 
eminence, but many are called and few are 
chosen. The chances are often against 
him, and before he recovers himself for a 
second spring he has glided almost un- 
consciously into a calmer, even if deeper 
current. He is intoxicated with the soft 
splendours of Thought and Reflection. 
He has lost the world's hall-mark that 
might have carried his name to futurity. 
The spring and the summer have gone, and 
already the gentle shadows of Life's Au- 
tumn fall upon his onward path. If he looks 
forward now, it is to the Winter of Age. 

Yet this period of his life is not without 
its consolations. He learns now, perhaps 
for the first time, the luxury of repose — 
the silent power of calm thought — the still 
delight of meditation. Much that was ob- 
scure in the hurry and strife of his earlier 



42 THE OPEN AIE. 

years now becomes clear — what was moon- 
light and mystery has become sunshine 
and strength. In the world he is less, in 
himself he is more. He has advanced to a 
larger mode of thought, a deeper tone of 
feeling. To those who surround him he 
may seem colder, more self-contained, than 
in the days when every fancy flashed to 
his lips with eager haste for words to give 
it expression ; but it may be there are two 
or three familiar friends who give him 
* their entire sympathies, and to these he 
opens the treasures of feeling, thought, and 
experience, and regrets no more that he 
is in the autumn of his days. 

Few poets express the sweet melancholy 
of the autumn with so much grace as 
Shelley:— 

The day becomes more solemn and serene 
When noon is past : there is a harmony 
In autumn, and a lustre in its sky, 
Which through the summer is not heard nor seen, 
As if it could not be, as if it had not been ! 



AUTUMN M0ENING. 43 

But there is a charm in autumn which 
lies beyond the power of language, how- 
ever sweet or graceful. It gladdens me 
sometimes to think that these emotions, so 
sweet yet so transient, so tender yet so 
profound, are glimpses of a world far from 
ours, where these passing gleams radiate 
from a light that shineth for ever. 



44 THE OPEN AIK. 



CHAPTER IV. 

SUNDAY IN THE COUNTEY. 

How delightful it is, after weeks spent in 
the stifling atmosphere of the vast city, to 
escape once more into the quiet beautiful 
country — to see once more the calm 
clear sky, and, instead of the clattering 
waggons and hurried, tread of thousands 
of weary passengers over the hot pave- 
ment, to listen to the musical carols of the 
birds, fancying that they are almost chirp- 
ing a welcome to us as we pass beneath 
their leafy abodes ! 

But doubly welcome after the bustle of a 
week in town come the hush and quietness 
of the rural Sabbath. I speak, of course, 
only of those secluded spots still beyond 



SUNDAY IN THE COUNTEY. 45 

the reach of cheap excursion trains, for, 
while admitting the great benefits of rail- 
way excursions, it must be also allowed 
that the sweet calm which so disposes the 
mind to meditation and worship — which 
transforms every grove into a cathedral 
aisle, where the worship of the heart be- 
comes spontaneous — which seems to bring 
heaven nearer, and banishes for a time so 
many worldly thoughts and feelings — 
which seems to bring its own choral music 
in every whisper of the gentle wind, and 
where the holiest associations beam upon 
us with the softened light of the sun 
struggling through the dense boughs — this 
peace and repose, so dear to cultivated and 
thoughtful minds in all ages, so rarely to 
be obtained amidst the bustle and worry 
of trade and manufacture — is especially to 
be valued upon those rare occasions when 
we can find a quaint old church in some 
out-of-the-way rural district, where we can 



46 THE OPEN AIE. 

spend the Sabbath in happy forgetfulness 
of the money market or the factory. 

Such a spot I found lately upon the banks 
of the Thames — a spot which has been 
celebrated for centuries for the beauty of its 
sylvan scenery— a spot near which Shel- 
ley, lingering in his boat upon the placid 
waters, overshadowed by the branches of 
many trees, composed his " Revolt of Is- 
lam." It was such a place as a poet might 
have created from his own imagination, a 
spot to lie down in upon a hot summer's 
day, and dream over again those visions of 
our boyhood, so sweet, and so impossible, 
yet which haunt us sometimes to the last 
day of our existence. 

The beautiful intermingling of oak, 
beech, pine, larch, elm, ash, and sycamore 
in this lovely spot, taught an unconscious 
lesson to humanity, forming a beautiful 
type of the true liberty that should exist 
amongst our human kind. Why should 



SUNDAY IN THE COUNTEY. 47 

not we, poor mortals, like those flourishing 
trees, while ever struggling upward toward 
a freer clearer atmosphere, yet leave scope 
and opportunity to our fellow-travellers in 
life's pilgrimage to do likewise ? 

Here, then, after a week of hard work in 
the city I found myself one Sunday morn- 
ing, sometimes ruminating, sometimes lost 
in a day-dream, listening to the rustle of 
the trees or the scarcely audible ripple of 
the river, glancing occasionally at the quiet 
old church, through the windows of which 
the sun streamed gloriously, chequering 
the floor of the chancel with golden lights 
and transparent shadows, as the trees 
waved to and fro, alternately admitting or 
obscuring the sunlight. I could not help 
envying the minister who officiated in this 
delightful place, and wondering if, for the 
sake of additional loaves and fishes, he 
was sighing for a rich living in some 
black manufacturing" town. 



48 THE OPEN AIE. 

While thus musing the bells chime mer- 
rily. I have not heard for years such an 
appropriate accompaniment to the joyous 
summer morning. It blends with the music 
of the birds, the babbling stream, the sigh- 
ing wind, and the mysterious longing in 
my own heart which such a scene and 
such a day will often conjure up. 

It was a sight not to be witnessed un- 
moved, when little groups, young and old, 
rich and poor, could be seen calmly wend- 
ing their way to the ancient church. God 
be thanked there is one day when the poor 
rheumatic old labourer who has slaved year 
after year till his faculties have grown al- 
most as dull as the soil he cultivates — God 
be thanked there is one day when even he 
may hold up his head and remember there 
is One sees him who is no respecter of per- 
sons — that for once the squire may remem- 
ber that, for all his broad acres, a very few 
feet of earth will one day suffice him. 



SUNDAY IN THE COUNTEY. 49 

The service begins. It seems wonder- 
fully in harmony with the cheerful morn- 
ing. Religion is, or should be, a cheering 
thing, and never comes home to my heart 
so effectually as when the red sunlight 
streams through upon the sacred page, or 
when the lights and shadows of the old 
trees in the churchyard glimmer and gloom 
upon the marble tablet or whitewashed 
column, or the twittering birds can be 
heard under the eaves of the porch during 
the sermon. It seems as if Nature herself 
smiled glad approval of our religious rites, 
and were ready to go hand in hand with 
our holiest feelings. After the storms and 
sorrows of our daily life, how sweet and 
soothing is such an hour as this ! It un- 
binds the chains that fifty cares and trials 
have wound about us. Whether we offer 
up praise and thanksgiving — whether we 
take solemn warnings from the transitory 
present or look hopefully forward to the 



50 THE OPEN AIE. 

future — we cannot but be strengthened in 
purpose and revived in heart by the expe- 
rience of such a peaceful Sabbath morning. 

Once more in the open air, friends and 
neighbours cordially greet each other. 
Perhaps in one case there is an echo of 
sadness in the tone, and two or three steal 
away from the other groups to a distant 
corner of the churchyard, to speak of one 
who is absent evermore from their weekly 
assembling-place — one who in the busy 
street would perhaps have been unknown 
to the next-door dweller, but who was 
here both a neighbour and a friend. Some 
will stand in the shadow of the porch and 
listen to the echoing notes of the organ 
playing the concluding voluntary, and pre- 
sently the clergyman comes out, bowing 
and shaking hands, evidently upon the 
best terms with his congregation. 

What the text was I really cannot say, 
for to me the whole place — the people — 



SUNDAY IN THE COUNTRY. 51 

each sight, sound, and feeling — was a ser- 
mon more impressive than any words of 
the preacher, though they were passable 
enough, and suited to the comprehension 
of his unlettered hearers. After the ser- 
vice I wandered down to the river, which 
seemed lovelier than I had ever seen it. 
Its soft and gentle flow accorded with the 
tranquil spirit of the day ; every tree and 
hill, every cloud and shadow was mirrored 
upon its silvery surface, and gave the 
scene an ideal beauty. The hues of hea- 
ven lighted up its breast as thoughts of 
heaven lighted up the deepest recesses of 
my heart. Never did earth and sky preach 
a more effective sermon. 

Here at least, I thought, if anywhere, 
one might suppose that party spirit and 
petty rivalry should be put aside and left 
at the doors of the church, as the Maho- 
metan leaves his slippers at the gateway 
of the mosque, but I found soon that there 

e 2 



52 THE OPEN AIR. 

was the bitterest feud existing in the vil- 
lage between rival religious sects. They 
would not permit each other to go to 
heaven in their own way. Some sought 
amusement in their religious services, and 
were all for incense, music, and ritual: 
others preferred the barest of walls and the 
driest of discourses, shunning flowers of 
speech as much as they abhorred gilded 
altar-pieces, tolerating no music save what 
came from the unmelodious voices of the 
charity children, with the occasional nasal 
growl of a deacon or vestryman as bass 
accompaniment. 

There was a strong disposition to {jetty 
tyranny, also, in the matter of religion, as 
I learned from the remarks of a labouring 
man. 

" T'other day the squire says to me, 
' Why don't you come to church, John, 
instead of going to the chapel over the 
way ?' ' Well, sir,' I says to him, ' I hear 



SUNDAY IN THE COUNTEY. 53 

tilings at the meeting-house that suit my 
opinions and understanding better.' Well, 
of course that didn't please, for a good 
many thinks that a poor man shouldn't 
have an opinion of his own at all. Then, 
if a body drinks a glass of ale, somebody 
tells the parson or the Sunday-school 
teacher or the Scripture-reader, and before 
the next day is over the chances are a 
chap with a pigeon-tailed coat and a werry 
high shirt- co liar, rattles at the cottage door 
while I'm slaving away in the fields, and 
gives one of my little ones a tract, and 
says, l Mind you give your father this when 
he comes home, my dear.' 

" Well, home I come at last, tired enough, 
and the merry litttle innocent puts into 
my hand a printed paper with big letters 
at the top about ' The Drunkard's Doom.' 
Now, as I've never been drunk in my life, 
you may be sure I don't read the tract, and 
that I don't think any better of the reli- 



54 THE OPEN AIE. 

gious feelings of the parties that give such 
things away." 

There is no doubt that this plain homely 
working man spoke openly what was gene- 
rally felt. Under the names of charity 
and philanthropy there was an inquisitorial 
system adopted, which only tended to widen 
the breach already existing between church 
and chapel. The well-meaning people who 
made this blunder were consequently looked 
upon by their poor neighbours with distrust 
and suspicion. 

We see by this little sketch of real life 
how difficult it is for those whose faculties 
are untrained to separate themselves from 
the little narrow details of every -day affairs. 
All the glories of nature upon this glorious 
Sabbath day; all the lessons which may be 
learned from the flower and the tree, from 
the streamlet and the sky, go for nothing 
with Brown, the grocer, if on the previous 
Saturday his rival Jones reduced his sugar 



SUNDAY IN THE COUNTRY. 55 

a halfpenny per pouud. Poor Thompson, 
the butcher, dolefully questioning himself 
as to whether a certain " carcass " will keep 
till Monday, turns a deaf ear to the appeal 
for charity with which the sermon con- 
cluded. Whittlebury, the farmer, passing 
through a certain field of wheat, ignores 
the brilliant sun and the gorgeously- tinted 
clouds, and in his secret heart wishes the 
Sunday had been a pouring wet day, so 
that, if his own ears had lacked the warning 
lessons of the sermon, the ears of corn might 
have been fuller for the haryest. It is often 
to be regretted that the farmer watches so 
closely day by day the crops and the sea- 
sons. He is privileged beyond other men, 
in that seed-time and harvest will come in 
due season; that corn will redden and 
fruit will ripen at the appointed times, 
neither sooner nor later; and that all his 
fuming and fretting will go for nothing. 
But as the farmer so are we all — in sen- 



56 SUNDAY IN THE COUNTEY. 

sible to the good that lies nearest to us. 
We do not see till youth has passed all the 
happiness and freedom which belong to 
that glorious season. How often do we 
crave in after years that we might once 
more, if even but for ever so short a time, 
travel that enchanted road, guided by the 
light of later experience ! How often do 
we recognise only when our poor friend is 
under the turf the treasures of sympathy 
and affection we have received from him, 
and how often do we need the severe pro- 
bation of a life spent in the smoky city and 
noisy street to make us fully alive to the 
glories of God's creation, and the holy 
calm and divine peace of a Sabbath day in 
the country ! 



THE OPEN AIR. Qt 



CHAPTER V. 



BY THE SEA. 



Perhaps no word of three letters has such 
a kindling effect upon the imagination as 
that simple but suggestive word, the sea. 

Its vastness — its mystery — its power ; 
its serenity in the calm and its awful 
sublimity in the tempest ; its sudden and 
wonderful changes, being alternately the 
kindliest friend and the most furious foe — 
make us regard the sea with wonder and 
awe. We await with some certainty the 
advent of the green leaf upon the tree ; we 
anticipate almost to an hour when the glad 
beauty of the rose will seem to reflect the 
flush of the opening dawn ; we know when 



58 THE OPEN AIE. 

the grass will be bending beneath the 
scythe, and when the golden grain will fall 
under the reaper's hand; but beyond the 
ebb and flow of the recurrent tides we 
cannot forecast the fickle temper of the 
ocean. It has secrets that slumber eter- 
nally in its own bosom, mysterious as the 
tomb and vast as the world which it en- 
compasses. 

Thus, with all our delightful associations 
there is mingled a sense that we stand in 
the presence of an unknown power; that 
linked with the most enchanting aspects are 
suggestions of havoc and horror; and while 
we welcome it as a friend we must take 
the necessary precautions as against an 
enemy; we may have to watch, to struggle, 
to despair even ; yet, when the contest is 
ended, the treacherous victor lies smiling 
and basking in the light of the sun, invin- 
cible as it has been from the creation of the 
world till now. 



BY THE SEA. 59 

But its fascination is endless. When we 
stand upon the quiet sands and watch the 
white fringe of the breakers in the subdued 
twilight, who can help wishing to explore 
some of the wonderful lands that have been 
washed by that eternal wave ? What fairy 
islands shine like gems in the glory of per- 
petual summer ! What fantastic rocks and 
unfathomable caves ! What toppling ice- 
bergs, glittering with the brilliancy of mil- 
lions of diamonds ! What towering heights 
crowned with exotic foliage ! What fairy 
sands ! What strange monsters floating 
in these mystical deeps! And then the 
light, the shadows, the wonderful colours 
of the transparent waters — the gorgeous 
harmonies of setting suns. These are 
visions that have tempted, and will tempt, 
enthusiastic adventurers till the end of 
time. 

Besides the charm of its own grandeur 
and beauty there are a thousand romantic 



60 THE OPEN AIE. 

legends associated with the sea. Reading 
lately an old chronicle of the Danish sea- 
kings, I came upon an incident that would 
make a fine study for an imaginative 
painter. It described the strange burial of 
a Viking who had been mortally wounded 
in a sea-fight, Feeling that his end was 
near, he desired his brother warriors to lay 
him upon the deck and spread the sails, so 
that he might eventually repose wherever 
the wind and tide drifted him. His wish 
was complied with. They raised the mast 
and spread the sail to the breeze, while 
the dusky billows surged round the keel. 
Then, at a given signal, the vessel was 
launched and floated away from the shore 
with the dying chieftain on board. It was 
an incident that appealed vividly to the 
imagination. One can fancy the lonely 
vessel sweeping afar into the shadowy sea, 
while the marble features of the silent chief 
look spectral in the moonlight, and the 



BY THE SEA. 61 

dauntless breast which now heaves only 
with the heaving wave throbs never more 
with the ardour of battle. It was a fitting 
burial for a Viking, thus to find an un- 
known sepulchre upon the element he had 
loved so long. 

There is a special sadness in a burial 
at sea. When death comes to us ashore 
there is a certain consolation in the fact 
that we can visit the resting-place of the 
beloved one in after years — perhaps in 
some quiet spot where, surrounded by 
graceful trees and pleasant flowers, the 
dead do not seem so utterly banished from 
the living. But in the great deep we lose 
all trace of him who has departed. Far 
above his head the mighty billows leap 
in heedless scorn of his last sleep. No 
mourning procession followed him to the 
grave. No spreading tree overshadows 
the spot where he lies, and his resting- 
place, unmarked by pillar or stone, is 



62 THE OPEN AIR. 

invisible evermore, save to Him who 
watches everything He hath made, both 
upon the sea and the shore. 

One must have a narrow and prosaic 
nature who can watch the sea in all its 
varying aspects without solemn and en- 
nobling thoughts. Seafaring men, how- 
ever heedless they may be respecting re- 
ligious observances, have almost invariably 
a strong sentiment of religion in their 
hearts. And its practical result may be 
seen in the noble heroism with which poor 
untutored men risk their lives in cases of 
storm and shipwreck. It is well said by 
Novalis that our religion should surround 
us perpetually, as the sea is canopied by 
the sky. To those who are open to the 
best influences of nature, the visible leads 
to the invisible. The sounds and harmo- 
nies of the life around us suggest ideas of 
the deeper life above and beyond. Seldom, 
I think, do we feel this so readily as when 



BY THE SEA. 63 

we wander by the seaside in the early sum- 
mer. The joyous elasticity of the atmo- 
sphere, the prophecy of golden days to 
come, assured to us by delicious memories 
of the past, consecrates our feelings of hope 
and gladness perhaps more than at any 
other period. 

One of the most picturesque of maritime 
customs is the benediction of the sea, which 
takes place annually upon the coast of 
Brittany. At the commencement of the 
sardine fishery the boats of each little port 
and bay are collected together. The masts 
and rigging are taken out of four or five 
of them, and they are covered with stout 
planking. An altar is then erected upon 
this temporary floor, and the other boats 
are moored as closely as possible to the 
floating altar decked out with flags and 
streamers of every hue, the forepart of each 
vessel being also decorated with a pro- 
fusion of flowers and foliage, while the 



64 THE OPEN AIR. 

nets and tackle are carefully stowed away 
at the stern of each boat. 

The fishermen with their wives and 
children then kneel in the different vessels, 
and there is a silence broken only by the 
plashing of the waves and the breakers 
upon the beach. Soon the priest arrives, 
rowed by four fishermen clothed en- 
tirely in white. Mass is chanted while he 
officiates at the altar. The priest with 
uplifted hands then blesses the sea, the 
vessels, and the fishermen themselves, im- 
ploring for them a favourable season. Im- 
mediately the mass is over the crews put 
to sea, and in place of the previous silence 
and solemnity there is nought but eager- 
ness and activity, and soon the little fleet 
is receding from the shore. 

It would be the labour of years to do jus- 
tice to the life within the ocean. Take the 
sea anemone alone, which is often a source 
of wonder to the seaside visitor, especially 



BY THE SEA. 65 

in its sensitiveness to atmospheric influ- 
ences. It seems to know by instinct when 
there is a clear calm sky, and only then 
will it unfold all its beauty. Let a dusky 
cloud hide the brilliancy of the sun, and 
the flower crown of the sea anemone is 
contracted into a formless ungraceful mass 
immediately. 

The sea has its special charm for the 
painter also. Even in gloom, when the 
surface is furrowed with white breakers, 
and the broad wings of the sea-gull gleam 
with an almost spectral light against the 
bosom of a black cloud ; in sunshine, too, 
when the outward-bound ship spreads all 
her flowing canvas to the light breeze, and 
drops down as if at the wand of a magi- 
cian to the under- world ; or at night, when 
the tall cliffs loom duskily above the hoarse 
surge far beneath ; or at midday, with the 
gorgeous cloud mirrored upon the shining 
surface ; — at every hour and under every 

F 



66 THE OPEN AIE. 

aspect it has some beauty peculiar to 
itself. 

Civilization has wonderfully changed 
the feeling with which men regard the 
sea. In olden days it was the boundary 
of empires, and when the savage looked 
clown from the heights upon the vast ex- 
panse it was to him the limit of the world 
— he scarcely dreamt of aught beyond, 
while now it unites the uttermost parts 
of the earth. It is a highway for every 
nation. 

It is to be regretted that so few visitors 
to the sea take the pains to learn some- 
thing of its infinite wonders. How com- 
mon it is to see an intelligent child, when 
finding a curious shell or strangely-shaped 
fish drifted upon the sands by a larger 
wave than usual, asking the fond papa or 
mamma what is its name, and why it is 
so curious in its shape or movement, all 
of which questions are generally shuffled 



BY THE SEA. 67 

off, and the child's attention diverted to 
some more common-place subject which 
will not reveal the ignorance of its pa- 
rents. 

This is a pity, because, in all probability, 
a shilling or two and a little careful read- 
ing would have given sufficient knowledge 
to direct the child's mind into the right 
path, and knowledge gained in such an 
easy and simple way would not readily be 
forgotten. Those who have the time and 
opportunity might surely spare themselves 
a little from frivolous amusements, which 
are as readily attainable in London, to 
learn a little more of the sea. They would 
be the better for their increased know- 
ledge, and would be spared some follies. 

For a walk upon the sea-shore is to the 
instructed a peep into a natural museum. 
Looking up into the fissures of the cliffs, we 
discover a vegetation totally different from 
that we have seen a mile inland, and in 

f 2 



68 THE OPEN AIR. 

places where the wild billows have broken 
away fragments of the cliff we are let 
into many secrets of the earth's formation. 
Layer upon layer, heaped up in long- 
forgotten centuries, when the primeval 
forest covered our populous Britain, and, 
in place of hardy pioneers of civilization 
to every part of the known globe, our glens 
and valleys were peopled by fantastic and 
gigantic forms, which seem almost as fabu- 
lous to read of now as the whimsical crea- 
tions of a goblin or fairy tale. 

Throughout the year the sea has an 
infinite variety of tenants ; but as the sea- 
son advances and the waters are warmed 
by the increasing power of the sun, there 
is practically no limit to the strange and 
wonderful life of the ocean. Every little 
pool left by the receding waves is full of 
movement; the rocks are covered with 
zoophytes shaped like flowers, radiating 
like stars, branching like twigs, or the 



BY THE SEA. 69 

fantastic shapes upon a frosted pane of 
glass in winter. There is an endless va- 
riety of form and structure, peculiarities 
of life and modes of reproduction. And 
with the genial atmosphere come flocks of 
birds, which are only seen at this season — 
bright-winged wanderers who fly to softer 
climes with the first blast of winter. On 
yonder distant sands, which look so trea- 
cherous now the tide is low, we shall find 
them picking up the millions of infini- 
tesimal creatures stranded there. 

A grand object for contemplation is the 
sea. In how many ways besides idly 
tossing pebbles into the surf we may be- 
come interested and elevated ! The sea 
has suggested some of the loftiest ideas 
of the poet and philosopher. So wild, so 
free, so terrible, so beautiful ! So fearful 
in its wrath, and yet so kindly. Leading 
us forth to distant lands of luxury and pros- 
perity; new fields of action, new homes 



70 BY THE SEA. 

for the famished tenants of our oyer- 
populated streets. Happy is it for Eng- 
land that she is a maritime nation, and 

is — ■ 

Encompassed by the inyiolate sea. 



THE OPEN AIE. 71 



CHAPTER VI. 

A VOYAGE ON AN ICEBEKG. 

While staying at the seaside I met an 
elderly Russian naval officer, who spoke 
English fluently. He had been one of the 
officers in Baron Wrangell's celebrated 
expedition to the Polar Seas, and he 
amused me as we sat together on the sands 
by narrating his former adventures. We 
were watching a magnificent cloud that 
floated across the horizon, and seemed 
almost to touch the surface of the ocean, 
when my companion called out suddenly — 

" Mon Dieu ! that big cloud reminds me 
of an iceberg upon which I once had a 
singular voyage." 



72 THE OPEN AIR. 

" A voyage on an iceberg ?" I exclaimed, 
thinking my companion intended to amuse 
himself at my expense in relating some 
Munchausen-like story. " How did that 
happen ?" 

" It was a terribly hard life we lived in 
those days, you may be sure," said the 
Russian. " Our vessel had been wedged 
between tremendous blocks of ice for weeks, 
and there was nothing to be done but to 
wait for a change of temperature. There 
were many indications that this change 
was approaching, as we occasionally saw 
great numbers of wild birds and animals 
hovering about the desolate waste of snow 
and ice. The men, wearied with their 
long inactivity, proposed a shooting expe- 
dition. Leave being granted, a native 
guide, named Wetka from some peculiar 
word he was constantly using, and who 
had been taught a few phrases of the 
Russian language, was pressed into the 



A VOYAGE ON AN ICEBERG. 73 

service, and arrangements were made for 
the start. 

" Our first care was to construct a sledge 
to be drawn by dogs. We had brought a 
dozen or more well-trained sagacious ani- 
mals from St. Petersburg, and as soon as 
all was ready we harnessed our dogs to the 
sledge, and away we went. Our steeds 
flew over the ice with great swiftness and 
steadiness, and we amused ourselves on 
the way by shooting a bear, a wild fox, 
and some very strange birds, but as we 
proceeded the cold became intense, the 
mercury formed in crystals, the oil in our 
chronometers became congealed, so that 
we lost all reckoning of time. 

u We, however, kept on till we came to 
a lofty range of ice-cliffs, some of them 
being nearly one hundred feet in height. 
We were thus effectually stopped in this 
direction. There was nothing to do but 
to turn back and endeavour to find some 



74 THE OPEN AIE. 

other outlet. The spot we had reached 
was influenced by a very strong current, 
and fissures were constantly opening and 
closing about us, making lanes of water, if 
I may so call them, which changed their 
shape and direction every moment. We 
were groping about to find a way back, 
when suddenly our whole team of dogs 
went through a narrow opening as swiftly 
as the ghost descends through a trap-door 
at a theatre. We should most assuredly 
have followed them but for a huge block 
of ice, that filled up the opening again as 
soon as made and kept back the sledge. 
As for the poor dogs, we saw no more of 
them. Too intent upon saving our own 
lives, we jumped instantly out of the sledge 
and got such foothold as was practicable. 
We heard two or three smothered howls 
and whines from the poor engulphed ani- 
mals, and we tried to release them by 
shifting many heavy blocks of ice, but 



A VOYAGE ON AN ICEBERG. 75 

the great clanger to ourselves induced us 
speedily to desist, and the poor dogs were 
sacrificed. The sudden shock had broken 
the tackle of the sledge, which no doubt 
saved our own lives. 

" This was a sad blow to our expedition, 
for we had trusted mainly to the instinct 
of the dogs, and now we had to rely en- 
tirely upon Wetka, the native guide, who 
became so discouraged that he gave us 
little hope of reaching the ship any more. 
To add to our perplexity, a blinding fall 
of snow came on. It was evident, unless 
something was done, we should be speedily 
frozen to death. We therefore set to 
work immediately, and built a hut with 
blocks of snow pounded into squares, using 
pieces of ice for windows. We could not 
afford much time for these operations, for 
the snow fell so fast that before we had 
completed our labours we were almost 
buried. 



76 THE OPEN AIE. 

" When our snow palace was built we 
found that we had hardly allowed our- 
selves room enough, and were packed like 
herrings in a barrel. We managed fortu- 
nately to make a chimney, and kept a 
huge fire in the centre of the hut at some 
distance from the surrounding walls ; but 
even then we were not able to lay aside 
our fur clothing, and when I attempted to 
make an entry in my diary I was obliged 
to hold the inkstand for a quarter of an 
hour over the fire before I could make a 
mark. 

" We attempted to sleep after our heavy 
labours, and as we did so our guide Wetka, 
who professed to be deeply read in the 
signs of the weather, prophesied that a 
general break-up of the ice would take 
place shortly. We were all too tired to 
take much notice of this, and, even if the 
change did take place, we felt it must be 
two or three weeks before the ship would 



A VOYAGE ON AN ICEBEEG. 77 

move from the spot where it was frozen in, 
and we trusted to reach it in the course of 
the next day. Accordingly we went to 
sleep at last, thoroughly tired out and 
hoping for the best. 

" A crashing, crackling, splitting sound 
against the walls of our snow domicile, 
which almost shook it to pieces, awoke us 
in the morning. We looked through our 
ice windows in utter consternation, but 
they were so blocked up with drifted snow 
that nothing could be seen. 

" After some delay and much alarm the 
wrappings which had been stuffed into the 
opening that served us as a doorway were 
removed, and our horror and astonishment 
may be conceived when we found that the 
boundless plains of ice and snow which we 
had traversed on the previous afternoon 
had all disappeared, and we were sur- 
rounded on all sides by water. In fact, 
the huge mass of ice upon which we had 



78 THE OPEN AIR. 

erected our temporary dwelling had been 
separated during the night, and had drifted 
away into the open water. Wetha was 
right in his prognostication, and we ought 
to have trusted him. We were literally 
floating upon an iceberg out to sea, with 
only provisions and fuel for three days; 
and our first prospect, if we were not 
dashed to pieces, was starvation. The sea 
of ice had suddenly broken its fetters. 
Enormous ice-plains raised by the waves 
into an almost vertical position drove 
against each other from time to time with 
tremendous crashes, each successive mass 
rising higher and higher, while the space 
of water around us increased every moment 
till our iceberg became an island in the 
midst of a bay probably three to four miles 
across, while in the distance the rushing 
waters spread out indefinitely. 

" Our only hope was in a change of wind, 
or that some of the immense masses of 



A VOYAGE ON AN ICEBERG. 79 

floating ice would gradually surround our 
island and freeze together. One of the 
sailors actually proposed to steer the ice- 
berg. It was a novel expedient, but worthy 
of a trial. The enormous mass scarcely 
moved, but he thought it might be possible 
to get some sail upon the unwieldly craft. 
Going to work with alacrity for some 
hours, we tied the poles which had sup- 
ported our hut together, and, with some 
bags and matting and the skins of two 
bears we had killed, constructed a rude 
sail, which, to our intense satisfaction, 
actually sustained the pressure of the wind, 
and soon made us sensible of a more rapid 
movement. 

" We moved along under our grotesque 
sail perhaps for three miles, when our 
course was impeded by immense quanti- 
ties of floating ice, and, getting into a 
narrower channel, we were for a time com- 
pletely jammed in. While we were con- 



80 THE OPEN AIE. 

sidering our chances of escape over these 
treacherous fragments, the day declined 
(such day, at least, as it was), and a heavy 
fog obscured everything at two yards' dis- 
tance. We decided, therefore, to remain 
as we were, and not to venture upon un- 
known dangers. We could perceive a vast 
plain of ice at some distance, but there 
was no chance of reaching it, being sepa- 
rated from it by a wide space of water. 
We seemed cut off from escape on every 
side, and with considerable alarm awaited 
the night. Fortunately, the sky and ocean 
were calm, and we were still hopeful. In 
the course of the night a breeze sprang up, 
and gradually our iceberg began to move 
onward, while to our great joy the current 
was setting in the direction of the ice-plain 
I have mentioned. 

" In the hope of forming a causeway to 
the main land, we pulled toward the ice- 
berg all the floating pieces of ice, and by 



A VOYAGE ON AN ICEBERG. 81 

the morning they had frozen together 
sufficiently to allow us to make a sortie, 
but we had not proceeded far when we 
found ourselves surrounded by innumerable 
crevices with a strong current flowing 
between. There was also every indication 
of a severe storm coming on, and we de- 
cided to remain yet a little longer on the 
iceberg. The breeze which had stirred us 
into motion now increased to a stiff gale. 
Cliffs of ice were dashed together every 
moment, and shivered into a million frag- 
ments, while our novel ship was tossed up 
and down like a Dutch lugger, and at one 
time threatened to topple over through 
the superincumbent weight. We could do 
nothing to help ourselves but to wait, 
expecting to be swallowed up. 

" For several hours we remained in this 
dangerous condition, and still our iceberg 
held together, when suddenly it was caught 
by a terrific gust, blown across the open 

Or 



82 THE OPEN AIR. 

space of water, and dashed against the 
mighty bank of ice. The crash was so 
fearful, so terrible, that the iceberg upon 
which we had travelled was shivered like 
glass. 

" It was an awful moment, and the in- 
stinct of self-preservation alone saved us 
from immediate death. Leaping like cats 
over the masses of ice, which frequently 
slipped beneath our feet and caused us to 
clutch desperately the arms or legs of our 
companions, we clung, climbed, crawled, 
jumped, and scrambled till we reached a 
firmer portion of the ice, and all danger 
was for the moment over. 

" We had still our work, to do, having to 
climb ice-cliffs seventy or eighty feet in 
height, and frequently wading up to our 
waists in drifted snow, but the excitement 
and novelty of our position stimulated us, 
and the wonderful aspects of nature which 
met us at every step filled us with awe and 



A VOYAGE ON AN ICEBERG. 83 

astonishment. Never more so than when 
at dusk the aurora borealis flamed like a 
triumphal arch over the northern sky — a 
sight of itself sufficient to reward us for 
much of our danger and toil. 

" Never shall I forget the effect of that 
mystic spectacle upon the mind of our 
guide Wetka. He was intensely super- 
stitious. In fact his religion, if he had 
any, was only a tissue of the wildest fan- 
cies. Every cloud in the sky, every shape 
of the fantastic icebergs, suggested some 
supernatural idea to him. His memory 
seemed haunted by phantom shapes, and 
when he saw the aurora borealis his blood- 
shot eyes gleamed, his lips quivered with 
broken sounds, and he trembled from head 
to foot, as though some unearthly vision 
had swept past him. 

" But he was extremely useful to us, for, 
where we could only perceive the same 
eternal waste of snow, the same tremen- 

g 2 



84 THE OPEN AXE. 

dous ridges of ice, he had a kind of instinct 
which guided him like the scent of a wild 
beast in search of its prey. He evidently 
had some notion of his own with which he 
intended to guide us once more to the ship,, 
and, reaching a wide open space, he looked 
far into the distance and pointed to some 
object which he could see apparently, but 
which was quite invisible to us. Then, by 
incoherent words and strange grotesque 
attitudes, he sought to convey to us the 
idea that he could perceive some gigantic 
figure in the distance. 

" We still followed him, and at length 
came to an immense mass of ice, upon the 
ridge of which, frozen into its present 
shape, stood a figure roughly resembling 
a man with outstretched arms, at least 
fifty feet high. The moment Wetka saw 
the strange apparition he fell upon his 
face with a sudden cry, and when we at- 
tempted to lift him kicked and resisted, 



A VOYAGE ON AN ICEBEEG. 35 

muttering all the while strange inarticu- 
late sounds. We concluded this to be an 
act of worship, after performing which he 
became quite cheerful, but still in evident 
awe of the ice-fiend. 

" When we came nearer, one of our men 
stated it to be a figure which the sailors 
had made to amuse themselves when frozen 
in at this spot during some former voyage. 
The solid state in which it remained was 
a convincing proof of the severity of these 
gloomy regions. The image had been 
built up with rude blocks of ice hastily 
thrown together without much attempt at 
outline, and the crevices filled with snow. 
The pallid sunshine of the brief summer had 
just melted the snow sufficiently to solidify 
the entire mass and improve the propor- 
tions of the monster, whose aspect, blending 
naturally with the solemn vastness of the 
surrounding deserts of snow and mountains 
of ice, was really almost sublime. 



50 THE OPEN AIR. 

" Our sailors, however, did not see the 
poetry of it, but as soon as they came 
near proposed a race to see who would 
reach it first. One, more adventurous than 
the rest, climbed the monster and stood 
upon his head. 

" In the mean time we were anxious to 
get back to the ship. Wetka was ex- 
tremely skilful in piloting us, but our route 
shifted so perpetually that it was becoming 
excessively tedious. 

" However, just as we were getting very 
down-hearted and almost despairing of 
reaching the vessel, we suddenly came 
within sight of it at no great distance. A 
hearty shout from those left on board 
announced that they had seen us, and 
swiftly a boat was put off. The signs of 
a change of temperature were frequent. 
Taught by instinct, the birds and wild 
animals began to assemble in great num- 
bers. Amused with watching them while 



A VOYAGE ON AN ICEBERG. 87 

we waited for the boat to approach us from 
the nearest point, we nearly allowed our- 
selves to be taken by surprise, for suddenly 
about thirty white bears of enormous size 
came leaping over a ledge of ice into the 
open space before us. 

" This was rather dangerous companion- 
ship, but, as the boat was rapidly ap- 
proaching, we trusted to reach the ship 
without the honour of Bruin's embraces, 
and, creeping under the shadow of a huge 
block of ice, congratulated ourselves upon 
not being discovered. Probably they had 
been feeding plentifully upon fish, and 
were disposed now for a little after-dinner 
recreation, for hardly had they come in 
sight when two or three amiable couples, 
hopping about on their hind paws, began 
patting each other in the most gro- 
tesque manner imaginable. This engaging 
conduct was speedily imitated by the 
whole of the party, and there was so much 



OO THE OPEN AIR. 

dancing and frisking about that the whole 
boat's crew were convulsed with merriment, 
and were quite incapable of hastening to 
our rescue. The consequence was that 
the rowers had allowed the boat to drift 
into a strong current, which carried it a 
considerable distance beyond the point 
where we waited for them. This accident 
nearly proved fatal to the whole party, for 
the bears suddenly suspended their festive 
gambols, and proved the uncertainty of the 
bearish nature by setting up a tremendous 
chorus of yells and howls quite out of har- 
mony with their former gay demeanour. 
The boat's crew now pulled for very life, 
but they had at least twenty minutes' work 
before them, by which time it seemed not 
unlikely that we should furnish a second 
repast for our white-haired antagonists, 
who now scrambled toward us with a 
rapid pace, evidently intending mischief. 
" We had only two guns, and but a small 



A VOYAGE ON AN ICEBERG. 89 

supply of powder. Wetka had a long 
knife, which he could use with great dex- 
terity, and seemed rather amused by the 
prospect of a sharp tussle. His skill was 
soon put to the test, for one of the biggest 
brutes lea23ed at him with a terrific howl, 
unmusical as the shriek of a rusty hinge. 
Wetka was cool, and one determined blow 
with his long knife sealed the creature's 
doom, while at the same moment I suc- 
ceeded in shooting another through the 
head. Other shots were fired, but with 
no result. All our powder was gone, and 
twenty-eight of our foes yet remained 
eager for the fray. 

*/ The boat was nearing us still, and was 
making for a long narrow ledge of ice. 
This was an unfortunate choice, as we 
imagined, on the part of the crew, for this 
mimic quay would hardly admit of two 
persons passing abreast along it. Wetka 
shouted to us with all his might to make 



90 THE OPEN AIE. 

for the point, and we did so, reaching its 
extreme end just at the same moment as 
the boat. 

" Looking back, we saw Wetka was left 
behind. He was standing at the other 
end of this narrow icy causeway, and the 
bears were close upon him. There was 
no room for the bears to pass him, but, 
while they crowded and jostled each other 
in their attempts to reach him, scarce one 
of them escaped without a hearty plunge 
from his long knife, which was followed 
by a victorious cry of ' Ya! ha!' when he 
saw three of his foes tumble into the water 
mortally wounded. All this time he had 
been retreating step by step, while the 
boat was brought near very cautiously lest 
the bears should attempt to jump into it 
and swamp us. Wetka understood our 
motives, but, watching his opportunity, 
took a flying leap, and reached the boat 
safely. In a few minutes we were once 



A VOYAGE ON AN ICEBERG. 91 

more on board the ship, which many of us 
never expected to see again. It was my 
first, and I hope it may be my last, voyage 
on an iceberg." 



92 THE OPEN AIR. 



CHAPTER VII. 

SOCIAL AND POLITICAL. 

It must be confessed that country life 
has not as yet entered so keenly as town 
life into the spirit of the changes likely to 
corne over our native land. The rustic 
population is slower to mark the impor- 
tance of the change, and has not shown 
much sympathy with the lofty confidence 
and gallant efforts of those whose political 
vision reveals to them the prospect of a 
vast and noble revolution for the people at 
large. 

Possibly the time of year may have some- 
thing to do with this apparent apathy. It 
is in the fulness of the summer that Country 



SOCIAL AND POLITICAL. 93 

Life claims its reward for the labour and 
forethought of the whole year ; when each 
gleam of sunshine and every passing cloud 
are watched keenly, and when the changes 
of a few hours may materially influence the 
farmer's prospects. During the remainder 
of the season it is natural enough that he 
is unwilling to have his thoughts diverted 
to other objects, however interesting. His 
world for the time is bounded by the hedges 
of his outlying fields. His political creed 
for the moment is apt to be conservative ; 
he is a sun-worshipper, and, though a 
staunch churchman, listens with greater 
interest to the voice of the wind than to 
that of the preacher. 

For the labourer, too, there are extra beer 
and extra pay, and a smile lights up the 
sunburnt face at the prospect of Saturday's 
wages. But when the harvest is stored, 
and friends and neighbours drop in as the 
evenings grow longer to take a social pipe, 



94 THE OPEN AIR. 

and compare notes with past harvests, and 
speculate upon the state of the markets, 
there will probably mingle with their talk 
some notions of the political future. Mem- 
bers of Parliament, too, will be looking 
them up, and keen-eyed agents sounding 
them as to the coming election on their 
way to market and fair. Bills printed in 
rainbow colours will mysteriously blossom 
upon barndoor, gate, and stile, full of 
alarming warnings, and, perhaps, even 
more alarming promises, for it is hard to 
say what a man will not promise under the 
influence of political excitement. 

Then Jack Noakes and Thomas Styles, 
from hearing the penny paper read (would 
they could read it themselves !) at the road- 
side inn, fired with the idea that they also 
will have something to say as to the future 
member, will put puzzling questions to 
their employers, and, making sudden 
plunges into the political current, will find 



SOCIAL AND POLITICAL. 95 

the stream altogether too deep for them, 
and be sadly muddled thereat. Still, in 
spite of many blunders and much confu- 
sion, the good work is actually in hand, 
and the tide cannot rise to this height 
without floating the good ship Reform into 
many a choked-up creek and inlet, impene- 
trably closed before, and we shall feel the 
heart of the nation throbbing with its fuller 
development of the national will. A large 
portion of our English life has brought 
little fruit during the two past centuries. 
The last great outpour of popular feeling 
was when our dear country was reddened 
with the blood of her patriots in the Civil 
War. Another vast stride must inevitably 
be taken during the bloodless war of opinion 
which is approaching. We hope and 
believe in the humanising influences of the 
closer personal relations which will be pos- 
sible when the larger destinies of our land 
force even upon the most apathetic some 



98 THE OPEN AIE. 

sense of their glorious privileges. It will 
be useless any longer to shut the eyes or 
the lips upon the great questions of right 
and wrong, and the way those questions 
affect the great mass of the people. 

Much there will be, no doubt, to disgust 
the over-refined. There will also be many 
too blind to see the full significance of the 
coming time, who will be loth to take leave 
of the ancient ways, and grope through 
new and difficult paths in partial darkness ; 
but the moment comes, and that soon, when 
it will, not be possible to blink any just 
claim of humanity because of its ignorance, 
its passions, its follies, or the humbleness of 
its position. 

This very question of humbleness of 
position brings us at once to the great 
claims of poorer Country Life. There is 
something tragically interesting in the 
sight of great numbers of our fellow-crea- 
tures shut out by the veil of ignorance 



SOCIAL AND POLITICAL. 97 

from the fairer prospects of life — strug- 
gling from the cradle to the grave, guided 
only by blind instinct or false lights, lying 
down at the end of their pilgrimage with 
the blighting chill of scepticism in their 
hearts, believing in nothing, hoping in 
little, save the cold shade of forgetfulness 
closing around them. Happiest are they 
whose ignorance induces only a blind 
credulity. They at least have lived the 
simple trusting lives of children. 

Yet there are some who consider this 
state of things natural and inevitable, who, 
satisfied with that outward calm which the 
peace and quietness of the country induces, 
believe that no change is necessary. Hodge 
and Griles are the human machines, who 
during past centuries have tilled the soil, 
and when they are sleeping under the 
shadowy yews of yonder little church- 
yard their sons and grandsons will do like- 
wise. 



VtS THE OPEN AIR. 

I look upon these homely, uncultivated, 
but not the less human lives, with deep 
pity. If, like the brute, they escape some 
of the keen pangs that assail those of 
higher sensibility, consider also, you who 
are blest with the full glow of modern civi- 
lisation; whose daily sympathies, quick- 
ened by the telegraph and the press, 
embrace the far corners of the earth ; whose 
vision is enlarged, whose instincts are re- 
fined, whose passions are kept — at least 
outwardly — under control ; think how 
narrow life must be enlivened only by the 
glow of an occasional evening spent at the 
alehouse, with perhaps the dreary humour 
of an obscene ballad accompanying it ; 
with once or twice in the year the brutish 
revels of a country fair. Happily, even to 
these Nature is beneficent ; she gives even 
when we are not ready to receive ; she has 
splendour even if we are blind, music even if 
we are deaf. Little as the rustic can under- 



SOCIAL AKD POLITICAL. 99 

stand of her sublimity or mystery, he is not 
entirely uninfluenced by it. 

But a wider horizon will soon be visible, 
and its need in agricultural districts is even 
more urgent than elsewhere. We cannot 
blame the Church, for there are many thou- 
sands of our rural population who associate 
with the Church all that is purest and most 
sacred in this life, and most hopeful of the 
life to come. Yet we do not regard the 
Church as faultless, or believe that it fulfils 
more than partially the high destiny of a 
truly Catholic Church. There may come 
a time, and we do not say so with any dis- 
respect, when the gold mingled with the 
dross of Romanism and the gold mingled 
with the dross of Protestantism will unite 
for the everlasting and universal welfare of 
mankind. Meanwhile let us rejoice that 
we are not standing still waiting for the 
good time, but that the order is given for 
the march. 

h 2 



100 THE OPEN AIE. 

We will not abuse the past. It has done 
its work : as the soil which last year grew 
the plant, the fruit, and the flower, that 
were yesterday consumed, is the same soil 
in which wo place the seed of the future 
harvest, so is the good solid ground of our 
English life capable of a new and vigorous 
growth, suited to the necessities of the 
future. If, like other cultivators, we now 
see clearly how many weeds choked the 
soil, and what parasites clung round the 
finest growths in past times, so much the 
better. We shall smile when we see the 
golden ears of the next crop waving in the 
place of the poppies and bindweed of the 
last. 

We have been so long accustomed to 
boast of our intellectual powers as a nation, 
our bravery, our freedom, our enterprise, 
our influence in the uttermost parts of the 
earth, that we have become almost blind to 
the many dark shadows now obscuring the 



SOCIAL AND POLITICAL. 101 

brightness of a glorious past. The great 
movement which will soon stir English life 
to the centre will teach us to look at home 
before we pass indiscriminate judgments 
upon other empires. How much must be 
done ere we can justify ourselves in the 
eyes of foreign nations for the high enco- 
miums we pass upon ourselves ! What a 
vigorous effort must be made to blot out 
the scandals of the National Church, and 
make it fairly represent the religious life of 
the nation ! How many idols must be 
thrown down which, under various names, 
usurp the sacred places ! How many dark, 
undiscovered, strange, and fiendish crimes 
must be brought to light ! How much has 
to be done in education of the poor ? Not- 
withstanding our boasted wealth, how 
many thousands of our working population 
are destitute, and herding together like 
wild beasts rather than Christian men and 
women, because confidence is so shaken 



102 THE OPEN AIE. 

that the wealthy know not in what scheme 
to embark with safety. Then the monopo- 
list grinds down the price of labour, and 
the house-owner exacts the uttermost far- 
thing for the miserable hovel in which the 
workman and his family spend their days. 

We have been over-confident, too. We 
believed that our machinery and our wealth 
would at all times keep us in the foremost 
rank — that we should still continue to be 
the workshop of the world — but that fond 
delusion is rapidly passing away. The cul- 
tivation and progress of other nations teach 
only too clearly the deficiency of England 
at the present time. Work of the highest 
quality comes into our markets at lower 
rates than were conceived possible. It was 
high time that our eyes should be opened, 
and an attempt made to infuse new life, 
new ideas, new rules of conduct into our 
national life. 

We cannot but hope that the self-respect 



SOCIAL AND POLITICAL. 103 

engendered by this great political advance 
will be a death-blow to the great curse of 
England — Ignorance. It is useless to point 
out the cheapness of books to the man who 
cannot read. Only this morning, in the 
fashionable watering-place of Hastings, a 
decent-looking young woman asked me to 
read to her a handbill in a shop window. 
She was seeking a situation as a domestic 
servant, having walked into the town from 
one of the inland villages — the name of 
which I have forgotten — and did not know 
one letter of the alphabet from another. 
How is it possible for her to rise in the 
social scale? What prospect has she but 
to drudge while her strength lasts, and 
finally to end her days in the workhouse ? 
It is humiliating to reflect upon the con- 
dition of some agricultural districts. Sur- 
rounded by the elevating influences of 
Nature — with so much that conduces to 
human happiness on every side of them — 



104 SOCIAL AND POLITICAL. 

there is yet to be found much misery and 
crime. Country Life has its duties as well 
as its pleasures, and, while the statesman 
and the noble, escaping from the smoke 
and strife of the city, are only too glad of 
repose and enjoyment, it is not too much to 
ask of them, at an important time like the 
present, to rouse the rustic population about 
them. 

In the town political insight is more 
common. The competition, the sharp 
struggle of man with man in trade, in 
meehanical resources, art and science, will 
make even the humblest artisan alive to his 
own interest and importance ; but, apart 
from the busy highways of life, there are 
thousands who need, if they do not claim, 
our anxious consideration. 



THE OPEN AIE. 105 



CHAPTER VIII. 

THE MOUNTAINS. 

The English seem to have a greater love 
for mountain scenery than any other na- 
tion. In this no doubt they have been 
greatly stimulated by the poets. Byron, 
Shelley, Coleridge, and Wordsworth, all 
have written eloquently upon mountain 
scenery. Nor must we forget the exqui- 
site language in which Ruskin has painted 
the glories of the avalanche and snow-clad 
precipice — language which, with nearly 
the fire and much of the colouring of fine 
poetry, has also the advantage of technical 
knowledge of art, so that while we enjoy 
the picturesqueness of his description, we 



106 THE OPEN AIE. 

feel that we are also acquiring valuable in- 
formation. 

Rarely, indeed, does a Frenchman enjoy 
or understand the vastness and sublimity 
of mountain scenery. It is true M. Miche- 
let, in a work recently published, has writ- 
ten some wonderful rhapsodies respecting 
a mountain, but after reading his inflated 
sentences we do not feel that we know 
much more of the mountain itself. We 
cannot, by the aid of his extravagant ideas, 
shut our eyes and recall any mountain 
scenery through which we have travelled, 
while it would be easy to quote passages 
from the works of the authors we have 
named which bring before the mind's eye 
the most vivid and faithful reminiscences 
of the snow-crowned height and everlast- 
ing glacier. 

The Frenchman generally carries Paris 
with him, whether he journeys to the 
mountain or the ocean. It is quite amus- 



THE MOUNTAINS. 107 

ing to read in Mr. Blackburn's tour in the 
Pyrenees how, at a certain hour, the 
whole French population of a little town 
in the heart of the mountains turned out 
dressed in the very latest fashion of the 
Boulevard des Italiens, and solemnly pro- 
menaded the little street, making a Paris 
in miniature in front of solitudes never 
trodden by foot of man. Accompanying 
the roar of the awful torrent with frivolous 
echoes of the fashionable world ; watching 
the crown of a sky-piercing pinnacle 
through the smoke of a very bad cigar, 
with one ear catching the crash of the dis- 
tant avalanche, or the howling of the 
blast in the pine forest, and the other atten- 
tive to the light coquetries of Madame 
leaning on his arm. 

An extensive view is generally one of 
the chief attractions to the country house 
of an Englishman of means, but at Pau, 
one of the chief towns in the Pyrenees — 



108 THE OPEN AIE. 

standing too in a position to command the 
entire mountain range — many of the prin- 
cipal houses have not a single window 
opening upon that wonderful propect, and 
the chief hotel absolutely turns its back 
upon the mountain glories* 

I am proud to know that some thou- 
sands of my countrymen are, while I write 
this j watching with delighted eyes many 
of these truly sublime scenes — wandering 
through the toy-like villages nestled at the 
bases of those stupendous heights — gazing 
up to the forests of dark the craggy bat- 
tlements far above them — dwelling with 
delighted eyes upon the little patches 
of greensward in the clefts of the pre- 
cipices — looking higher and higher to 
the vast forms lost in the clouds — or 
tracing lower down the tiny specks 
which villagers will tell them are moun- 
tain homes — or standing upon some rude 
wooden bridge looking at the torrent which 



THE MOUNTAINS. 109 

leaps madly oyer the rocks, and raves 
ceaselessly in obscure and seemingly un- 
fathomable depths below. 

At first to some minds there is a sense 
of oppression amid this vastness and gran- 
deur, but soon the eye wanders in search 
of human associations, and learns to con- 
nect the life of the simple hunter and shep- 
herd, in the specks of wooden chalets 
dotted about, with the wonders and sub- 
limity of Nature. One remembers that 
human hands have reared this rustic 
bridge, and battered out with infinite 
labour the tiny thread of a path that wan- 
ders round some distant height; and in 
losing the feeling of isolation Nature gains 
upon us rather than otherwise, by the very 
contrast of her tremendous power and 
solemnity with the puny efforts around us. 

And the simple habits of these primitive 
people acquire greater significance from 
their surroundings. We hear the sound 



110 THE OPEN AIR. 

of a shepherd's pipe echoing in the passes, 
or sometimes the voices of unseen speakers 
are borne to us from the fir-clad height, or 
even from the bosom of a cloud. We hear 
the merry laughter of children ascending 
from some valley beneath us, or the tin- 
kling bell in a pointed spire ; and when the 
roseate flush of the departing sun lingers 
upon the snowy peaks, and a purple haze 
spreads over the neighbouring valley, we 
wind once more down the rocky path, and 
welcome gladly the tiny twinkling lights 
in the cottage windows. 

It appears strange that mountainous dis- 
tricts produce so few poets and painters. 
The most exquisite descriptions in prose 
and poetry of mountain glories have been 
from dwellers in the plains. So, too, in 
painting. But it must be remembered 
that the mountain life to those who have 
it perpetually is a hard one. The towns- 
man seeks the mountain world when it is 



THE MOUNTAINS. Ill 

full of glorious beauty, but in the short 
summer there is much for the farmer and 
herdsman to do. His little crop of hay 
must be got up in some brief interval of 
unclouded weather, and even when it is 
ready to be stacked a sudden flood may 
leap from a dusky crag and carry off his 
crop, and he sees in a moment the produce 
of the year washed into some fearful ra- 
vine. The visitor comes when Nature is 
in her happiest mood, and it is only by 
accident he discovers what a battle with 
Nature and the elements there must be for 
the dwellers in those fairylike cottages. 
The inhabitant of the open country has an 
earlier spring and a later autumn than the 
mountaineer, and often in the depth of 
winter there are sunny days which bring 
back reminiscences of the departed sum- 
mer. 

Long ere the mellow autumn tints have 
faded from the southern landscape the 



112 THE OPEN AIR. 

mountaineer looks wistfully at the whiten- 
ing tops of the savage peaks, and knows 
that for months he will not see his neigh- 
bour or relative in the next village, though 
it may be scarcely half a dozen miles away. 
He does not muse upon the beauty of his 
mountain life, but upon its dangers and 
privations. As he watches the peaceful 
home where his whole life has been spent, 
he thoughtfully considers how that roof 
may best be protected from the angry 
wind or the cruel avalanche. He has to 
store up his humble stock of provisions 
against the time when he may have 
literally to dig his way through the snow- 
drift to reach his next neighbour's door. 
And, if illness or death should approach 
him in that gloomy season, it comes with 
a solemnity unknown to more genial 
climes. In the south Nature smiles upon 
our grief, and it is soon forgotten. Even 
upon death itself we cannot dwell mourn- 



THE MOUNTAINS. 113 

fully for any length of time when there is 
such exuberant life around us. But in 
these awful solitudes the shrieking tem- 
pest, the roaring torrent, the solid frown- 
ing wall of granite capped with everlasting 
snow, awaken strange thoughts and ghostly 
visions. They tend rather to superstitious 
awe than to the calm and critical moods 
which lead to creative art. 

But, coming from the town or the plain, 
what a revelation then is mountain scenery! 
What weird uncertain lights and shadows ; 
what eagerness of expectation ; what glad 
surprise, when, after watching many weary 
hours, we see the wondrous misty veil 
slowly upraised from the awful face of 
some storm-blasted peak ! Upheaving like 
a shadowy sea, the flood of vapour slowly 
rolls aside, and seemingly midway between 
earth and heaven stands forth the bare and 
rugged front of the mountain in all its silent 
majesty and power. Then it may that the 



114 THE OPEN AIR. 

sun, long obscured, breaks forth as if re- 
joicing and welcoming the stony monarch, 
salutes him with a beaming smile, and with 
one instantaneous magical touch transforms 
his misty garment into the most ethereal 
robes that were ever gathered round a 
majestic form. What exquisite delight, 
after months spent in the crowded streets, 
to gaze upon the rainbow hues that stretch 
above the sweep of the rushing water- 
fall ; to hear the echoing din of the mad 
cataract as it plunges down and scatters 
its foam upon the surrounding rocks; to 
stand and dream, as in a sublime trance, 
of the secret caves, where never shone the 
light of the sun, from which this boiling 
torrent has escaped; to feel that the 
whirling torrent has almost a sympathy 
with us, and rushes wixh increased speed 
and fury from the icy prison where it has 
been confined into the joyous light of the 
sun! 



THE MOUNTAINS. 115 

If we have not the grandeur of the Alps 
and the Pyrenees near at hand, we have 
within a few hours' journey mountain sce- 
nery which has an especial charm of its 
own, and which may be explored without 
danger or violent fatigue. I have had 
many walking excursions in North Wales, 
where there are glorious scenes lying near 
to each other. The Vale of Nant-Francon, 
between Bangor snd Capel Currig, is full 
of beauties : the road winds between the 
mountains mile after mile, the valley some- 
times contracting till there is hardly room 
for the roadway, and the lofty crags as- 
sume the most picturesque shapes. Then, 
as we approach nearer the Snowdon dis- 
trict, the mountains become more rugged 
and wild, and the eye is gladdened with 
the sight of many a furious little cascade 
rushing between the massive rocks, and in 
the endless play of light and shadow made 
by the fleeting clouds upon the grim sides 

i 2 



116 THE OPEN AIK. 

of the mountains there is a perpetual study 
for the poet and artist. 

All who visit mountain districts should be 
able to sketch a little. It adds immensely 
to the enjoyment of the tourist. It is true 
most of Nature's grander scenes are de- 
picted by the landscape-painter and the pho- 
tographer ; but there are a thousand little 
nooks and corners, not mentioned in guide- 
books, which, sketched ever so rudely, be- 
come pleasant memories years after. I have 
the outline of the first mountains I ever saw, 
drawn with a common pencil upon a piece 
of note-paper two inches square. An artist 
would make nothing of it, but to me it 
recalls in a moment some of the happiest 
feelings I have ever known. I had been 
walking with a friend through the Pass of 
Llanberis ; the day had been very sultry, 
and was fast declining ; there was an utter 
stillness in the air and not the slightest 
breath of wind ; the sky was obscure but 



THE MOUNTAINS. 117 

calm, and the only sound that reached the 
ear was the trickling of a tiny rivulet near 
at hand. Nothing could be more solemn 
and peaceful than the time and the scene, 
when suddenly a crash that seemed to 
make the very rocks tremble was heard in 
the mountains, and echoed again and again 
through the pass. In a moment the sky 
was like night, and the arrowed lightning 
shot downwards into the dusky glens, or 
quivered round the blasted crags, till the 
whole mountain range seemed on fire. 
And such rain! We clambered up the 
side of a crag to escape a drenching, and 
there for an hour we watched and listened 
with wonder and awe. The storm passed 
almost as suddenly as it came, and the 
grand crest of Snowdon, tinged with the 
hues of sunset, was looking as calm as 
though no storm had ever assailed its lofty 
brow. 

Then the mountain streams ! Who that 



118 THE OPEN AIE. 

has seen the Llugwy can ever forget that 
glorious little river, so various in its moods ; 
at one moment so fierce, at another so 
calm ; prattling in one place like the inno- 
cent chatter of a lively child; rippling 
onward in a wealth of fairy-like tones 
amongst the pearly pebbles that shine in 
its transparent bed, or beneath the drooping 
boughs expanding to a deep pool, where 
in the cool twilight the silver fish leap like 
schoolboys at play. Then disappearing 
altogether, playing at hide and seek be- 
tween overhanging rocks and dense foliage 
far beneath the narrow road, and we seem 
to have lost it entirely. Soon its voice 
is louder, and with a rush and a roar it 
plunges into a dusky gulf, and the con- 
tinually-ascending spray makes all the 
foliage covering the rocks a heavenly 
green. The furious little stream is hidden 
again, but lo ! a little further down the 
Llugwy is once more a placid current, 



THE MOUNTAINS. 119 

where the moonbeams linger lovingly, and 
its voice babbles as softly as old age re- 
counting the dangers and perils of its 
stormy youth. 



120 THE OPEN AIE. 



CHAPTER IX. 



CONTRASTS. 



I found in conversation with some re- 
fined and cultivated townsmen lately a 
general impression that Country Life 
tended to coarseness and vulgarity — that 
it was impossible to preserve that delicacy 
of manner and polite ease which are so 
much valued at the West End a dozen miles 
beyond the charmed Belgravian circle, 
unless, indeed, they visited some of the 
special districts consecrated by fashion. 
Then, in the midst of a smaller, though 
exactly similar circle to that they had left, 
they carried with them town manners, 
dresses, and habits; dined at the same 



CONTEASTS. 121 

hours, visited, shopped, told the same 
scandal, and played the same pieces on 
the piano, with croquet, flirtation, and 
so forth, exactly as in town the week 
previously. If by chance they encoun- 
tered a plain honest family — say that 
of a wealthy farmer, perhaps — they were 
shocked at the absence of conventional re- 
finement, and set down their simple and 
unaffected manners to ignorance or vul- 
garity, forgetting that there is a vulgarity 
much worse than plainness of sjDeech or 
awkwardness of motion — the vulgarity of 
mere finery. 

It would do some of our fashionable 
ladies much good to go occasionally into 
such neighbourhoods as Bethnal Green or 
Spitalfields. There are also some highly- 
flavoured localities in the direction of 
Poplar and the Isle of Dogs which may 
be recommended to their notice, and some 
remarkable specimens of the mother tongue 



122 THE OPEN AIE. 

catch, the ear about Bermondsey and Lea- 
ther Lane, which would astonish them not 
a little. 

But our aristocratic friends will not 
judge the matter fairly. They see a few 
dirty tramps lounging at the door of a 
village inn, or sprawling under a hedge 
by the dusty wayside. They see a fat 
red-faced labourer under the influence of a 
" sunstroke," as it is humorously called 
in hot weather, but which could be better 
explained at the " Coach and Horses," or 
" Old Red Lion," taking a greater breadth 
of the pathway through the meadow than 
rightfully comes to his share, or filling up 
the towing-path by the river in a per- 
plexing way, which makes one hope that 
the water is not deep, or that our friend in 
his cups can swim. Or we may be dis- 
turbed sometimes, just when we wished to 
hear the nightingale, by that too noisy 
chorus from the Sons of Harmony at the 



CONTEASTS. 123 

" Cross Roads " beershop. But all this is 
completely on the surface — we can mea- 
sure its length and breadth quite easily: 
the drawback is that it is so readily ob- 
served by the stranger. 

But does one man or woman of ten 
thousand in the higher circles know, un- 
derstand, or believe the terrible life which 
is so near to them ? There are few country 
cottages so filthy as to be absolutely re- 
pellent to a cultivated person, and there 
are few of their homely inhabitants who 
do not make some attempt at polishing up 
place and person if they receive any en- 
couragement or sympathy from the class 
above them ; but for real downright aban- 
doned brutality — for life that shames the 
very beasts that perish — life that seems 
heedless of a past and unconscious of a 
future — life defiant of law and order, kept 
only within the line of humanity by sternly 
repressive measures, we must seek the 



124 THE OPEN AIR. 

slums and dens of London. In this vast 
city, rich with the spoils of centuries, send- 
ing its beacon-lights of science and dis- 
covery to the uttermost parts of the earth — 
great in its freedom, sublime in its j)ower, 
unrivalled in its extent — it is in this laby- 
rinth we must look if we would also dis- 
cover human nature the most fallen, human 
instincts the most depraved, human pas- 
sions the most fiendish, of any spot upon 
the habitable globe. 

It may be safely said that human nature 
left to itself — neglected, ignorant, coarse 
though it be — does not, as a rule, sink so 
low as this in the country. And this is 
a fact which our lawgivers should remem- 
ber. The isolation of the country gives 
greater prominence to the individual vil- 
lain, but that the association of criminals 
breeds crime there is only too positive evi- 
dence in the state of our streets. Notwith- 
standing the number of police patrolling 



CONTEASTS. 125 

our thoroughfares by clay and night, not- 
withstanding the strict watch and ward we 
keep upon our individual homes, how con- 
stant and horrible are the crimes of large 
cities ! Can there be a more telling satire 
upon our boasted civilisation than the fact 
that we dare not trust our wives or sisters 
in even the most frequented streets with- 
out protection ? Yet, wilfully ignorant of 
all this, the Sybarite with his glass in his 
eye, and his scented handkerchief to his 
nostrils, shudders at a heap of manure by 
the wayside as he passes it in his carriage, 
and when he gets back to his beloved square 
or terrace tells, in lisping tones and with 
bated breath, the horrors of the country. 

To such as these I leave the glories of the 
town, the fashionable promenade, the mill- 
horse round of pleasure, " and that unrest 
which men miscall delight." My sympa- 
thies are rather with those who seek the 
most secret and exquisite haunts of Nature, 



126 THE OPEN AIE. 

and who love them ; who dwell with a 
dear delight upon the flood of sunshine 
sweeping over a golden field of corn, or a 
meadow blazing with buttercups in the 
early spring; who love the mysterious sha- 
dow of the forest and the music of the 
wind in the branches ; the sudden shower 
pattering down between the roll of the dis- 
tant thunder; who watch with subdued 
but heartfelt pleasure the sacred stillness 
of the falling snow ; who, if they traverse 
wilder climes, are fully alive to the won- 
ders of the pine-clad precipice, the creep- 
ing glacier, the fierce torrent ; who discern 
amid the beauty something deeper and of 
wider import than the mere scenic effect 
of the theatre upon a vaster scale ; who be- 
lieve that in every age and clime, from the 
savage to the sage, God has left some ser- 
mon in the stone — some book in the run- 
ning brook, full of meaning to those who 
will listen to their voices. 



CONTKASTS. 127 

It appears to me most conclusive that 
the proportion of crime and worldliness 
must be greater where large masses of peo- 
ple are congregated together. Losing the 
wholesome and soothing effect which com- 
munion with Nature has upon the senses, 
we are thrown backward upon personal in- 
fluences — we are filled with those petty 
irritations and caprices which grow so 
freely when humanity is cooped up in a 
narrow compass. Not only are we less 
tolerant of those who surround us when 
living a feverish and anxious life, but we 
suffer grievously in ourselves for want of 
that balance of the mind, that repose and 
firmness which a little thoughtfulness and 
contemplation will give. 

A closer alliance with Nature would re- 
duce the number of our fancied wants, 
would keep us out of the reach of many 
seductive follies and grave temptations. 
Memory, instead of being, as it often is, 



128 



THE OPEN AIE. 



a weariness, would become one of life's 
choicest gifts. It is because we have not 
enough pleasant memories that we so 
eagerly peer forward into the future, so 
eagerly clutch the present. Our remem- 
brances are of something artificial, some- 
thing not spontaneous or soothing. We 
lose in the street all sense of the exquisite 
charm of growth; a sense of constant change 
and variety, coming and going without our 
aid, almost without our knowledge; a glory 
and a mystery equally beyond our rivalry 
or control. These magnificent images, 
these delightful impressions, these sacred 
associations, are not of the town, but God 
has bestowed them for the joy and well- 
being of those who can understand them. 
The great poet is but the mouthpiece 
of these memories and experiences, and 
though it may be but the fortune of one in 
a million to make his keenness of observa- 
tion universal, it is within the power of 



CONTRASTS. 129 

most to share to some extent his plea- 
surable feelings. 

Especially with the great events of life 
we notice the dulling and hardening effect 
of the Town. The hearse and the railway 
van jostle each other in the march of mo- 
dern civilisation ; the ledger goes hand in 
hand with the Bible, and the sweet voices 
of childhood echo with the frantic curse of 
the sot and the despairing wail of the 
suicide. Humanity has no extremes that 
do not meet in the hurry and rush of this 
Babylonian strife. Children suffer greatly 
from the loss of associations in nature which 
stamp themselves ineffaceably upon the 
heart and affections, and make life seem 
sweeter and purer ever afterwards. 

If, as many suppose, large towns swal- 
lowing up smaller centres, and ultimately 
sweeping away village life altogether, be 
the ultimate change for England, there is 
all the greater reason for some counter- 

K 



130 CONTRASTS. 

acting influence. We must go ofteDer than 
ever to Nature, not for amusement merely, 
but for her teaching — for that constant re- 
ference to first principles, without which 
there is little real happiness. It is only 
thus we can feel our mortality less, our 
immortality more. 

Thousands of humble capacity drink in 
the inner spirit of Nature, though unable, 
like the poet, to give any active sign of 
the influence which makes their lives and 
everyday actions purer and more elevated. 
To such as these life has mysteries, depths, 
and sublimities unknown to the mere 
votary of Fashion. 



THE OPEN AIK. 131 



CHAPTER X. 



SURREY LANDSCAPES. 



Rambling lately in the lane leading 
from Dorking to Leith Hill, I chanced 
upon a little nook that glowed with every 
charm that a combination of trees could 
present. The narrow lane wound round 
a hill between lofty banks where five or six 
huge pines with sunny stems reared their 
heads. Between them were two or three 
poplars, some dwarf beeches and stunted 
oaks, with a foreground of lofty bank 
covered with brushwood and wild flowers. 
Through an opening in the trees could be 
seen little patches of grass, green as eme- 
rald, and, to make an effective contrast 

k 2 



132 THE OPEN AIR. 

with its freshness, a number of huge blocks 
of hoary stone peeped out like hermits from 
their cells. It was enchanting. Alas ! in 
time, perhaps, some speculative builder 
will discover the spot, and there may be a 
row of u desirable mansions " upon the 
brow of that lovely eminence with their 
ghastly, gaunt, and ominous stucco fronts 
staring out of countenance the modest 
purple-tinted face of Leith Hill. 

Nothing charms the lover of trees more 
than their wonderful variety. How dif- 
ferent the tapering poplar, shooting up into 
the sky like a graceful tower, from the 
sombre yew, spreading so far its shadowy 
wings, and seeming always to be found in 
the quiet company of the dead, year by 
year, as its branches extend, deepening 
their gloom above the quiet sleepers, as 
time too often makes us oblivious to those 
who were once our daily companions and 
familiar friends ! How much more cheerful 



SURREY LANDSCAPES. 133 

is the graceful and homely elm, so often 
seen raising its stalwart trunk in the neigh- 
bourhood of a busy farmyard, and with 
its light feathery topmost boughs almost 
hiding a stack of twisted chimneys, or 
some quaint old gable end ! There is an 
air of homeliness about the elm wherever 
you may see it. We rarely associate it 
with solitude and desolation. Children 
play beneath its branches, and when the 
stormy winds of a late autumn sweep 
through the boughs the elm has a music of 
its own, more like the airy buoyancy of 
Mendelssohn than the piercing Beethoven 
wail that sobs in the gnarled branches of 
the Druid-like oak. But is not the oak 
a noble tree likewise? Characteristic of 
England and the English ; slow in growth, 
angular in shape if you will; but long- 
enduring, ponderous, defiant as a rock, it 
has a rugged aspect that seems to invite a 
struggle with the elements. One can 



134 THE OPEN AIE. 

fancy it sometimes on a spring day, with 
its pale leaf, half-golden, half-green, seem- 
ing almost to smile at its easy victory over 
the wintry blast for the hundredth time. 

The glorious luxuriance of woodland 
constitutes the chief beauty of the views 
from Leith Hill. In general outline the 
scenery has often been compared with that 
of the Campagna seen from the vicinity of 
Rome, but the grace, richness, and variety 
of colour in the various groups of trees give 
a vast superiority to the English land- 
scape. 

The oaks of Surrey have been famous 
for centuries. The " King's Oak" at 
Telford is mentioned as far back as 1150 
in the charter granted to the monks of 
Waverley by Henry de Blois, and there is 
the oak at Addlestone, which was once the 
boundary of Windsor Forest, and under 
which Queen Elizabeth dined and Wycliife 
preached. There are also cedars of truly 



SUEREY LANDSCAPES. 135 

wonderful growth. One in the lovely 
grounds of Peper Harrow is nearly sixteen 
feet in circumference, and the branches 
spread in one direction nearly a hundred 
feet. 

It was a glorious walk to these beautiful 
grounds through lanes where the over- 
arching trees meeting aloft made a dim 
religious light like the solemn aisles of a 
cathedral, while the glimpses of sunlight 
peeping here and there between the leaves 
helped not a little to carry out the idea. 
There are plenty of such scenes in this 
locality, and, if one would dream away a 
sultry afternoon over a sweet romance or 
musical old poet, let him choose some wide- 
spreading tree in one of the many noble 
parks in Surrey ; there let him muse till 
from the shadows of the surrounding glades 
he may fancy nymph and fawn weaving 
some enchanted mesh to keep him prisoner 
in their fairy dominions for ever. There 



136 THE OPEN AIE. 

let him muse, the world forgetting and by 
the world forgotten — away from even the 
echoes of worldly tasks and toils, till the 
rabbits, oblivious of his presence, leap over 
his feet into the masses of feathery fern. 
Nor let him leave the spot till the moon 
is high in heaven, and he will be aston- 
ished at the strange weird effect of the 
moonlight streaming between the ghostly 
arms of a giant tree centuries old. What 
wondrous phantoms we can fancy peopling 
the dusky recesses of those sylvan avenues, 
what fantastic lights and shadows dance 
before us as we emerge from the myste- 
rious gloom. At no other time do trees 
appear so romantic, save sometimes in the 
sunset, and then one may watch the black- 
ening train of a colony of rooks winding 
home in the softened light toward the dense 
branches of some magnificent avenue of 
elms, their hoarse cawing startling us for a 
moment as they wheel above our heads, 



SUEEEY LANDSCAPES. 137 

and impressing us still more by their sud- 
den noise with the peacefulness of the twi- 
light calm. Sometimes on the skirts of a 
woodland there are fine effects when we 
see the sun, going down behind a group of 
trees, absorb them in one intense and de- 
vouring winding-sheet of flame. 

It is said Mendelssohn was extremely 
fond of a moonlight ramble in the woods, 
especially when he was composing the 
music to the " Midsummer Night's Dream." 

I was several days walking through the 
most interesting portions of Surrey. It 
was the haymaking season, and I shall 
never forget the pleasant hour or two I 
spent with a cheerful haymaking party near 
Chertsey, helping them to drain a little 
barrel of ale and dispose of some coarse 
bread and cheese, after which I took a peep 
at the house where Cowley spent his last 
days. I then strolled to St. Anne's Hill, 
which, however, was tame after the bold 



138 THE OPEN AIR. 

sweep of Leith Hill and the majestic downs 
above Guildford. There is nothing finer 
in England than some of the views from 
the Merrow downs. The river Wey flow- 
ing through the valley beneath makes a 
rich and cultivated foreground, while the 
bold outline of the Surrey moors in the dis- 
tance, wild and rugged as though London 
were a thousand miles away, and covered in 
every direction with furze, heath, and fern 
form an effective contrast which cannot be 
equalled nearer than in the Highlands of 
Scotland. 

The lovely lanes in the vicinity of 
Wooton and Grodalming cannot, I should 
think, be surpassed in the world, but one 
cannot help regretting the gradual disap- 
pearance of those patches of green sward 
— those nooks and corners which we so 
commonly met with a few years ago in 
these country lanes. Sometimes after walk- 
ing for a mile or two, half-hidden by over- 



SURREY LANDSCAPES. 139 

hanging trees and lofty hedges, we came 
to an opening which was a perfect picture, 
and such glimpses have often enough ex- 
ercised the skill of our greatest living 
painters. Creswick has painted scores of 
such "bits" as artists love to call them. 
Linnell, Cole, and others, have often worked 
upon the same theme, but it is to be feared 
the utilitarian spirit is too deeply rooted 
long to overlook any such reclaimable 
spaces. One will soon have to travel many 
miles from London to see a natural pic- 
turesque lane. 

Prosaic folks remind us that we cannot 
feed upon the beautiful, and if we sacrifice 
this great charm of an English landscape 
we shall be repaid by improved crops. 
Some will go so far as to say that there 
is more poetry in the clatter of steam 
machinery, and the thousand marvels of 
science, than in all Nature. This we can- 
not agree to, and it behoves all lovers of 



140 THE OPEN AIK. 

country life to make a stand against any 
unnecessary destruction of beautiful objects. 
For Nature has a special power of adapta- 
bility which has scarcely been sufficiently 
appreciated. If any one would understand 
this thoroughly, let him imagine some rude, 
square, hoary tower of an ancient Gothic 
church standing in the midst of a densely- 
populated town, surrounded by mean houses 
and smoky factories. Seen in such com- 
pany, how little interest the old tower will 
awaken ! But change the scene to a remote 
country village, and what a transformation 
takes place! A mass of clustering iyy 
creeps lovingly about the ancient belfry. 
There is a tenderness even in the assaults 
of time upon the crumbling walls, and 
decay itself comes with a beauty of its 
own. It may be a massive yew throws 
its dense shadows across the lowly porch, 
or the ridge of a woody hill peeps 
above the tower, and makes the white- 



SUEREY LANDSCAPES. 141 

ness of the hoary walls a landmark for 
miles. 

Compare a river with an artificial canal. 
The utility of each may be on a par, but has 
it ever been possible to throw any enchant- 
ment over the formal waterway ? But the 
river has chosen its own course ages ago. 
It trickled out of some rugged mountain, 
chattering down the precipice, proud of its 
escape : finding no outlet between the lofty 
hills, it lashed itself into a foaming torrent, 
leaping madly into the vale, and wandered 
between broadening banks, till it expanded 
into a placid lake. Meeting some stub- 
born rock or lofty mound, it gratefully 
embraced it, and formed an island. Wel- 
coming many tender little rivulets babbling 
down from distant hills, uncertain and 
heedless of their course, it carried them 
gaily on its ever -widening bosom, bright, 
glowing, and beautiful, to the sea. 

But in thrusting Nature out of sight 



142 THE OPEN AIE. 

we make a greater sacrifice than the 
mere loss of beauty. There are thou- 
sands who, amid the terrible rush and 
strife of the city, have never learned, have 
never understood, the deep suggestiveness 
of Nature. Thus the best poetry of Words- 
worth is obscure to so many. One thinks 
sometimes with a feeling of sadness that 
the time may come when this great poet 
and deep thinker will cease to influence 
the minds of a coming generation. The 
rapidly-increasing populations of our great 
towns necessitating increased mechanical 
means of supporting them, together with 
the rapid spread of buildings far into the 
country, will make the passionate love of 
simple natural objects seem far-fetched to 
many of our grandchildren. But will it 
ever be the province of mechanical efforts 
to suggest those sweet and truthful lessons 
of this life, and those dim aspirations after 
a purer and better, which are so plentifully 



SUEEEY LANDSCAPES. 143 

gleaned from rural objects? The tamest 
preacher and least original poet have not 
been blind to the inner gleams which are 
awakened in us by changes of the season, 
by glorious skies, by darkness and dawn, 
by the coming blossoms of spring, and the 
withered leaves of autumn. Nor can we 
imagine that the great Creator of these 
exquisite scenes did not implant in us a 
capacity for understanding and benefiting 
by their calm and gentle influences. 

Agricultural innovators have made a 
dead set against our lovely English lanes. 
Farmers solemnly tell us that they keep 
the sunshine off the fields and impoverish 
the soil; so the beautiful hedgerows are 
ruthlessly cut down till they resemble a 
wirework fence, and the banks beneath, 
which glowed with wild flowers, are dug 
away till not a particle of grace or beauty 
remains. 

Fortunately many of the Surrey villages 



144 THE OPEN AIR. 

have escaped the spoiler's hand hitherto, 
and in these we find thoroughly character- 
istic English beauties. Fine old churches, 
open commons, beautiful lanes, and bits of 
woodland scenery, the delight of artist and 
poet. 

Indeed, artist and poet have always 
affected Surrey. Shelley's earliest poems 
were written in the skirts of Windsor 
Forest. I believe Mr. Disraeli also wrote 
his " Coningsby" amid the lovely sylvan 
glades of the Deepdene near Dorking. 
Tennyson is a landed proprietor in Surrey, 
having purchased a delightful estate near 
Haslemere in the neighbourhood of some 
very fine moors and downs. Thomson 
lived close to Richmond and Kew Gardens. 
Sir Joshua Reynolds lived at Richmond 
Hill, in the first house after leaving the 
Terrace and going towards the Park. 
Streatham will remind many readers of 
Dr. Johnson, and Purley of Home Tooke. 



SUEEEY LANDSCAPES. 145 

Wooton is associated with the name of 
Evelyn, Moor Park with Swift and Sir 
William Temple. A long array of famous 
names might easily be added, but I am 
dealing rather with places than people. 



146 THE OPEN AIE. 



CHAPTER XI. 

NIGHT IN THE COUNTRY. 

A glorious privilege of country life is 
the opportunity it gives of studying the 
wonders of the heavens. We must be 
clear of large towns in order to obtain a 
view of sufficient extent of the blue ocean 
above us to comprehend its vastness and 
sublimity. The study also necessitates a 
calmness and quietude altogether incom- 
patible with life in the street. Only in 
the solitude and peace of the country do 
the stars speak to us their lessons from the 
past, their wonderful suggestions of the 
future. 

In the early stages of human history in 



NIGHT IN THE COUNTRY. 147 

the East we see by many ancient records 
how strongly the thinly-populated plains 
were influenced by the lore of the stars. 
It is strange to consider the feelings of 
those primitive dwellers upon the earth, to 
whom the mighty orb of the sun, the 
millions of glittering stars, and the silver 
face of the moon were objects of the 
deepest mystery. We read with little 
surprise that these sublime natural objects, 
which are often by us regarded with only 
too much indifference (as though, indeed, 
a glorious sunset, or the rise of the moon, 
could be more than faintly indicated by 
any number of Royal Academy painters), 
were often in those days objects of awe 
and worship. 

This sentiment remained for generations 
after. The Greeks and Eomans idealized 
the sun, moon, and stars in thousands of 
picturesque poems and fanciful imageries. 
Even the more sombre Druids are sup- 

l 2 



148 THE OPEN AIK. 

posed to have ascribed to thern a magical 
influence, while in many uncivilised por- 
tions of the globe, where are witnessed 
at night effects of which we have no 
conception in these colder climes, the 
savage falls awe-struck before the splen- 
dour of the Nature he so dimly compre- 
hends, and hides his face from the unutter- 
able grandeur of forms which he knows not 
whether to regard as friendly or inimical 
to him. 

Accustomed as we are to watch the beau- 
tiful changes of dawn, twilight, sunset, and 
utter darkness, we can hardly realise what 
the effect must be, as it is yearly, in 
one region of the earth, where for many 
weeks there is no night, but the sun shines 
on continually. Very wearisome, notwith- 
standing its strangeness, must be such an 
absence of the usual effects of night and 
day. I know nothing more exquisite, espe- 
cially in the height of the summer, than 



NIGHT IN THE COUNTRY. 149 

the mysterious darkness that envelopes the 
face of the country daily. I watch some- 
times with untiring gaze the first purple 
yeil of the night drawn over the dusky 
hill and misty valley, or creeping with 
strange mystery over the surface of the 
great deep. Afterwards, when the calm 
is greatest, the solitude most impressive, 
when the faintest whisper of the wander- 
ing wind seems almost to become a living 
voice to the heart, imparting to the height- 
ened imagination things unutterable by 
worldly speech, what a keen thrill passes 
through the breast as the eye catches the 
narrow rim of silver which proclaims the 
advent of the moon, as gradually she 
ascends the brightening sky, and the 
11 immeasurable heavens break open to 
their highest!" Then for a space I can 
only wonder and admire, until the very 
faintest blush of dawn is visible in the 
east, growing brighter and brighter as the 



150 THE OPEN AIR. 

stars fade, and ere the sense is lost of the 
enchantment of the night a new day is 
upon me, and the soft cool freshness of 
the dewy night is gone. 

It is not to be wondered at that a time 
so grand and suggestive in itself as the 
night, so prolific in " thoughts beyond the 
reach of our souls," should have stimulated 
in remote ages the thoughtful or curious 
student. It was evident to the rapt Chal- 
dean that there must be that to learn of 
those bright orbs and silent deserts of the 
night which must exercise incalculable 
influences upon mankind. Naturally, if 
there could be strange uses and inestimable 
advantages in the things of earth and sea, 
if on every side he discovered new use and 
beauty especially adapted to the wants and 
desires of mankind, it was reasonable to 
imagine also that the vast regions of the 
skies were not divinely shaped and planned 
without some reference to humanity. 



NIGHT IN THE COUNTRY. 151 

Century after century has glided past, 
and during these ages there have always 
been some to note the changes and signs 
of the heavens, who have mounted, by 
the slow steps of human powers and 
comprehension, a little nearer to the 
Infinite. Movements full of mystery, 
which seemed erratic and uncertain at 
first as the fantastic travels which we 
take in dreams, have gradually, under 
the light of patient inquiry, become 
clear and defined ; and where enlightened 
minds have taken up the task in a spirit of 
hope and reverence, not merely for the 
gratification of unbelieving curiosity, they 
have been rewarded by revelations which 
have seemed as if the Almighty had un- 
veiled His majesty for a moment to their 
wondering gaze; so vast, so sublime, so 
unsearchable, have been the worlds into 
which they have been permitted to glance, 
if but for the briefest space of time. 



152 THE OPEN AIE. 

We feel the sublimity of this when we 
recall Goethe's fine similitude as to the aim 
and destinies of man, "unhasting, unrest- 
ing, like the course of a star;" and the 
gain, once achieved, is a stand-point from 
which the man of thought in a future age 
looks as from a more elevated situation at 
the vast field yet before him. Gazing 
upon memorials of the springtime of the 
world, the crumbling towers of Babylon, 
the sand-blown pyramids of Memphis and 
Thebes, even should imagination people 
the deserted and mysterious halls with the 
races that once occupied them, we glean 
after all but echoes and suggestions, merely 
such as in some future age are all the wan- 
derer will have to tell, all he will be able 
to discover of ourselves ; but on the thrill- 
ing secrets of these silent orbs the student 
gazes till a meaning flashes upon him like 
inspiration. Here is a lore the like of 
which can nowhere else be unfolded; a 



NIGHT IN THE COUNTRY. 153 

university whose meanest teacher has shone 
through the entire antiquity of the uni- 
verse ; a pyramid whose apex is lost in the 
light of the Eternal, whose foundations 
spread to the uttermost corners of the earth. 
What is architecture compared to the com- 
bination of millions of spheres ? What is 
music to the solemn harmony of uncounted 
ages ? Stand in the midst of an open land- 
scape in the night ; cast aside all dreams of 
petty ambition, all wordly schemes of ad- 
vantage; forget for the time the narrow 
street in which our still narrower ideas 
have been bound down to the cash-book 
and ledger ; sink for a brief space that per- 
sonal individuality which daily and hourly 
frets our souls, and raises a host of tiny un- 
assailable enemies around us. Let the busy 
brain repose, let it dwell upon the Maker 
of these far-off and sublime creations. 
Watch, then, if but for an hour, in the 
solemn stillness, and amidst this eternity 



154 THE OPEN AIE. 

of light and motion, and hard must be 
the heart, and dull the brain that is not 
stirred to a divine enthusiasm, and dead- 
ened to the worship of a callous every- 
day world. 

I cannot in this brief space dwell upon 
the achievements of science and discovery, 
nor mention a tithe of the great names 
which have been linked with this noble 
and elevating study, for few great men are 
there who have not been infected more or 
less with a desire to penetrate these glo- 
rious mysteries — from Linnseus, who fell 
upon his knees thanking God for the golden 
splendour of a field of furze, to Galileo, 
the persecuted watcher of the skies, en- 
shrined for all time in the majestic verse 
of Milton (liimself, blind bard though he 
was, full of the loftiest enthusiasm for the 
works of nature) ; from Dante to Shakes- 
peare, whose picture of a summer night in 
the "Merchant of Venice" is unsurpassed 



NIGHT IN THE COUNTRY. 155 

in poetry ; from Homer to Tennyson ; 
from Newton, whose calm analysis has 
done so much to increase our wisdom of 
the skies, yet who, as he felt himself, was 
but a child playing upon the sands of the 
Infinite, to a host of brilliant names of our 
own day, whose labours will be, as they 
deserve to be, imperishable. 

The order of Nature is so complete, even 
when most complex, that, if a single link in 
the chain be once held fast by the deter- 
mined discoverer, no matter what obscurity 
hides the remainder of the connection, he is 
certain that at some time all will be clear. 
Though it be but a spark, yet it is evidence 
of the electric chain that girdles the entire 
universe; though his life be given to un- 
veiling the attributes of a single star, yet 
he has struck the keynote of endless har- 
monies. Thus the great astronomer works 
with a full sense of the mighty objects he 
contemplates. For months and years be- 



156 THE OPEN AIE. 

forehand he can forecast the changes, the 
direction, the influences of those mysterious 
bodies, and thus in the midst of his weak- 
ness and frailty, notwithstanding his pas- 
sions and his follies, man feels a sense of 
his immortality even upon earth, when he 
contemplates the firmament in the night 
season. 

We know by studies whose accuracy has 
been infallibly proved, that the operations 
of these sublime spheres date backward 
through millions of changes, so vast that 
the mere existence of man is but a faint 
shadow upon the dial of Time, in com- 
parison with them. Yet, insignificant as 
man appears in the presence of objects so 
vast and wonderful, one cannot but be 
hopeful when reflecting upon what man 
has already achieved. Difficulties which 
have mystified the sages of many a for- 
gotten century may one day flash upon 
the startled world from a single stroke of 



NIGHT IN THE COUNTRY. 157 

the pen, for we have not now, like the 
Chaldean of several thousand years ago, to 
grope in the darkness and obscurity of 
first principles — we can start with the se- 
rene light of past wisdom and discovery 
beaming upon us. A never-ending ma- 
jestic motion pervades the whole creation. 
In some glorious future it will be man's 
highest development and purest happiness 
to comprehend perfectly that world for 
which he was created, and which was also 
created for him. What we know already 
is as a whisper in the darkness from the 
Friend who will one day tell us all. 



158 THE OPEN AIE. 



CHAPTER XII. 

TWENTY YEAES AGO. 

We are apt, in our first impression of 
any beautiful scene in Nature, to be occa- 
sionally disappointed. " Most of us," says 
a late writer, " putting cases of exceptional 
luck aside, have thought or will think the 
same. The mountain is lofty, yet not quite 
so stupendous; the river is romantic, yet 
winds not quite so picturesquely ; the face 
is fair, yet not quite so lovely — as had been 
set forth by fancy or word-painting. In 
the aftertime we may come to dwell in the 
shadow of that same mountain, and wax 
so jealous of its honour that we shall 
scarce allow there is its peer amongst the 



TWENTY YEARS AGO. 159 

everlasting hills; we may float on that 
same river till we know and love every 
rippling eddy and quiet pool, and swear 
that there flows seaward no pleasanter 
stream; we may look on that same face 
till we are ready to maintain against all 
comers its sovereignty in beauty. But — 
if we go back honestly to our first impres- 
sion of any wonder of Nature or Art that 
we have approached with expectation on 
the strain — we shall remember a faint 
reaction like the slackening of a damped 
cord." 

How much more is this feeling likely to 
be experienced when we go back to any 
spot familiar to us in youth, and which we 
have not visited for many years. The 
sense of disappointment upon these occa- 
sions is almost universal, yet allied with a 
certain sad sweetness which has made the 
subject over and over again the theme of 
the poet and philsopher. For it must be 



160 THE OPEN AIR. 

observed, though vast and sublime changes 
take place in the operations of Nature — 
though wonders of invention and mecha- 
nism alter the outward aspects of places 
familiar to us in days gone by, yet the 
feelings and thoughts of men, the hopes 
and dreams, the passions and regrets of 
humanity vary little, whether among the 
Bedouins of the desert, or the Londoner at 
his desk or counter under the shadow of 
St. Paul's. 

How keenly this was felt by Byron 
when, oppressed with deep sorrows and 
regrets, he wandered amid the sublime 
scenery of the Alps! He tells us in his 
journal, "lama lover of Nature, and an 
admirer of beauty. I can bear fatigue, and 
welcome privation, and have seen some of 
the noblest views in the world. But in all 
this the recollection of bitterness, and more 
especially of recent and more home deso- 
lation which must accompany me through 



TWENTY YEARS AGO. 161 

life, has preyed upon me here ; and neither 
the music of the shepherd, the crashing of 
the avalanche, nor the torrent, the moun- 
tain, the glacier, the forest, nor the cloud 
have for one moment lightened the weight 
upon my heart, or enabled me to lose my 
own wretched identity in the majesty and 
the power and the glory around, above, 
and beneath me." 

This bitter but eloquent expression of 
human sadness, written when his home 
was broken up, his household gods scat- 
tered by remorseless creditors, his love 
turned to gall, show us how totally out of 
harmony we are with Nature when we 
bring to her calm retreats griefs that are 
not of her making. It also shows how 
greatly we are influenced by association of 
ideas. At first Nature, in her novelty and 
grandeur, seemed cold and unsympathetic, 
even to the heart and fancy of a great 
poet, but ultimately she asserts her ancient 

M 



162 THE OPEN AIR. 

powers. Gradually the stormy passionate 
nature of the man yields to her allurements; 
imagination is kindled with the wild 
grandeur of the mountain storm ; envy, 
hatred, and malice bend to the sweet voices 
of the evening calm o'er lake and valley ; 
and anon in the musical stanzas of "Childe 
Harold," and the exquisite monologues of 
" Manfred," we read the reproduction of 
the surrounding loveliness, and feel how 
much Nature has done after all for her 
world- worn and distracted son. 

I had recalled these impressions of a 
poet once world-famous, now scarcely so 
much appreciated as his magnificent genius 
deserves, while riding back by the Great 
Western Railway to a little village in 
Oxfordshire, where I had spent my early 
days. It was twenty years or more since 
I had seen the village, and it was not with- 
out some curiosity that I awaited my 
new impressions of the place. To me 



TWENTY YEAKS AGO. 163 

twenty years ago it seemed that the little 
brook which ran through the village was 
the perfection of a stream. My first 
poetical ideas (followed since with much 
pleasure, but small profit) were gathered 
at the little old mill at the extreme end of 
the village. How often as a youth had I 
gazed at that old wheel turning continually 
and dashing aside the bewildered water, 
and thought what an emblem of life it was ! 
The world was my image for the mill 
wheel tossing and buffeting the stream of 
life, harassed by adverse fortune or innu- 
merable cares. But I was consoled to see 
how soon the waters regained their former 
placidity, and glided away in a noiseless 
current toward the unfathomable ocean. 

And with what majestic proportions had 
my youthful fancy invested the rude stone 
bridge with a single arch which spanned 
the aforesaid murmuring stream. How 
many hours had I spent leaning over that 

m 2 



164 THE OPEN AIE. 

rustic parapet watching the clouds reflected 
upon the clear serface of the brook, or the 
tiny eddies made by a huge stone. What 
an adventure it was when a fierce wind 
tore a stately elm up by the roots, and 
threw it bodily across my favourite stream, 
a ready-made rustic bridge over which I 
scampered the best part of a summer day ! 
Would the barn be standing now, I wonder, 
which was boarded with planks cut from 
that wonderful tree ? 

It was late at night when I reached the 
cosy farmhouse, and there was nothing for 
it but to wait till next day to compare 
former impressions with the present. I 
asked but few questions of old friends and 
old places, dreading the inevitable changes 
of twenty years. 

Many a dream of my boyhood came 
back to me in sleep beneath the familiar 
roof, and, when I awoke and looked out of 
the window that soft sunny morning, there 



TWENTY TEARS AGO. 165 

was the long blue outline of the distant 
hills, with the same form and colour as of 
old. The scattered farms looked very 
familiar. There was the little river, too, 
gleaming through the meadows, and oppo- 
site me was the very orchard, where, with 
sundry other urchins, I forgot the law of 
meum and tuum under the tempting influ- 
ence of golden pippins. Breakfast was not 
ready, and I took a stroll down the strag- 
gling irregular street — if street it could 
be called. What was it that was so greatly 
changed? " That never," thought I, 
"could be our old cricket-field and play- 
ground — the spot where we quarrelled over 
marbles or flew our kites. Surely that is 
a paltry little paddock for the enjoyment 
of half a hundred boys." But so it was. 
The place was the same, but, alas! the 
looker-on was changed. 

Changed even more in ideas and habits 
than in appearance, for an old man, leaning 



166 THE OPEN AIR. 

against a stile, shading his eyes with his 
hands, and looking apparently a long way 
off, as countrymen are prone to do, though 
I was standing quite near to him, nodded, 
and bade me welcome to my native place. 
Poor old fellow ! it seemed not a day since 
I had stuck an arrow through his white 
furry beaver, not twenty yards from this 
spot, and such is the force of association 
that I involuntarily looked for the hole in 
his hat still. He was an old man when I 
left the village, yet here he is twenty years 
after, little changed in outward appear- 
ance. 

What astonished me was that in the por- 
tion of the village through which we had 
strolled there was a sense of dulness quite 
opposed to the liveliness and prosperity of 
the place as I remembered it. My host 
explained how and why this was. " All 
this part of the village," said he, "has gone 
down since the rail opened two miles out 



TWENTY YEAKS AGO. 167 

yonder," pointing in the distance to a spot 
where I could just see a very new-looking 
spire, and the roofs of some tall houses. 
That was the secret why the grass was 
growing in front of a large inn where the 
London coach used to change horses. 

My host was by no means enthusiastic 
about the changes that had taken place. 
"It was only robbing Peter to pay Paul," 
said he. "When you were a boy in this 
place people were not so restless and im- 
patient as they are now. If a man lived 
well and paid his way he was satisfied and 
happy. He took an interest in what his 
neighbours were doing, and people lent a 
hand to each other when harvest was late 
and the weather catching. They went to 
church on Sunday, and didn't want any 
new-fangled doctrines. If they didn't al- 
ways understand the parson they took it 
for granted that he was saying the right 
thing. As for the young folks, Lord ! if I 



168 THE OPEN AIK. 

had curled my tongue with such fine words 
to my betters as they do now my father's 
ash stick would have crossed my back in 
no time. And the girls ! Why, they got 
up with the dawn and plied their fingers in 
the dairy, instead of jingling bits of ivory. 
As to a song, we could be merry enough 
in old times at harvest-home or by the 
Christmas fire, and were contented with 
the good old mother tongue, not prattling 
outlandish jargon. What would my poor 
old father have said to see a farmer's son 
smoking a meerschaum at nine in the 
morning, or going to a dance at night in 
patent leather boots and kid gloves ?" 

Thus the old man rambled on, com- 
paring these degenerate days with the 
days of his youth, when George the Third 
was king. I tried in vain to make him 
see with my own eyes ; and, possibly, with 
all our pride in modern achievements, there 
may be something to be said on the far- 



TWENTY YEARS AGO. 169 

mer's side of the question. There was a 
good deal of happiness and contentment in 
those days, and what do we find now? 
Our villages are fuller of paupers than 
ever. If smart new towns spring up be- 
side railway stations, in many cases they 
are merely exhausting old and prosperous 
villages a few miles distant. Let us wel- 
come the gas works, the drainage, the 
enclosure of land, threshing by steam, and 
scientific manure, but thrice welcome be 
that change which shall raise and improve 
the individual man. Twenty years leave 
their shadows upon the tablets of my 
memory since I lived in this place, and 
still I see the same forlorn creatures living 
the same colourless lives, with no loftier 
hopes, no brighter ideas, no better man- 
ners, no cleaner persons. Dull as the clods 
upon which their weary labour is spent. 

Even as a child this terrible ignorance 
shocked me, and in visiting my native 



170 TWENTY YEAKS AGO. 

place I passed a spot where I tried, in my 
childish way, and with some success, to 
enlighten the children of a poor labourer. 
Never shall I forget the blank expression 
of astonishment that came over the chil- 
dren's faces while they listened to me. 
Many charitable people in patronising 
Ragged Schools fancy they have discovered 
the lowest depths of ignorance, but they 
should really seek in the country lanes 
also. The street boy is sure to have learned 
something. Oh, the dark significance of 
that word ! Whether that something shall 
be a curse or a blessing, let a future Govern- 
ment do its best to prove. The task is a 
heavy one, but the reward will be eternal. 



THE OPEN AIR. 171 



CHAPTER XIII. 

WITH TENNYSON IN THE FENS. 

Judging by the works of our own poets 
and painters we might imagine that appre- 
ciation of natural scenery was a thing of 
recent growth, but, reading to-day the 
charming " Idylls of Theocritus," I was 
reminded that the Greeks of two thousand 
years ago were by no means unlike our- 
selves at the present moment ; and indeed 
one may find in the pages of the above 
charming pastoral poet many turns of ex- 
pression, many phases of thought, which 
awaken comparisons with Tennyson. The 
likeness would be still closer but for the 



172 THE OPEN AIR. 

extreme difference of scenery that met the 
eyes of the respective poets. In Tenny- 
son's "Ode to Memory" we see how his 
Imaginative childhood has been influenced 
by the level landscaj>es of the Fen districts. 
We see — 

" Stretched wide and wild the waste enormous marsh, 
Where from the frequent bridge, 
Like emblems of infinity, 
The trenched waters run from sky to sky ; 
Or a garden bowered close 
With plaited alleys of the trailing rose ; 
Long alleys falling down the twilight grots, 
Or opening upon level plots 
Of crowned lilies standing near 
Purple-spiked lavender." 

Here we have the poet of the plain, the 
poet of a kind of landscape which at first 
sight appears destitute of interest from its 
apparent monotony, but which in reality 
is very full of interest to a closer observer. 
We never feel any want of enjoyment in such 
scenery when sketched by Tennyson, and 
there are in reality many effects which take 
a strong hold of the imagination, and which 



WITH TENNYSON IN THE FENS. 173 

are not obtainable in other regions. There 
is especially a greater intensity in the life 
of the people who inhabit such landscapes 
than in more hilly countries. In hilly 
districts there is something perpetually 
appealing to the curiosity. Few of us can 
look at the purpled outline of a range of 
distant hills without speculating what lies 
beyond them. It is with a hill as with the 
ocean: the thoughts and sympathies are 
enticed to the far distance. 

Judging by Mr. Hep worth Dixon's bril- 
liant description of the Prairie, I imagine 
he will agree with me that there is a sense 
of freedom in a vast plain which is not 
felt amid hill and valley scenery. Look- 
ing out for miles upon what Tennyson so 
beautifully describes as the "level waste, 
the rounding grey," the eye loses that 
sense of definite objects which so strongly 
influences us when we look at the decided 
formation of a mountain, the glittering 



174 THE OPEN AIE. 

flood of the cascade, or the bold height 
crowned with innumerable trees. The in- 
terest is thrown back upon what is near ; 
there is a sense of repose in the surround- 
ings, and the imagination dwells with 
unwonted pleasure upon objects which in 
more varied landscapes would almost es- 
cape our notice. This accounts for the 
vivid reality of Tennyson's description. 
How clearly we seem to see the sluggish 
river and the creeping barge, the water 
lilies swaying to the slight movement of 
the stream, the waving cornfield sweeping 
away to the distant horizon, the heavy 
luxurious pasture of the green meadows, 
homesteads peeping through the massive 
elms, the sweet-smelling flowers, the hives 
musical with the hum of a thousand bees, 
the echoing bell of the minster clock ! It 
is delightful, though so homely. The 
heart can feel no sadness in the midst of 
such golden plenty, such peace and calm- 



WITH TENNYSON IN THE FENS. 175 

ness. In " The Lady of Shalott " he 
gives us a picture in three lines, which, 
strange to say, his critics condemned when 
the poem was first produced ; but their 
condemnation was the result of ignorance, 
for nothing can better realise the scenery 
of the Fens than this — 

" On either side the river lie 
Long fields of barley and of rye, 
That clothe the wold and meet the sky." 

Tennyson would not alter the poem to 
please his critics, because he knew by 
heart the scenery he had described and 
loved it well also. Nowhere in England 
can we so well understand the wonders of 
an English sky as in the Fens. The cele- 
brated painter Stanfield, referring to the 
beauty of the Italian skies, remarked, 
" there are really no skies in the world to 
compare with those of England. The dull 
monotony of the southern skies, where all 
the day there is not a cloud, ceases to charm 



176 THE OPEN AIR. 

after a few days, but the glorious varia- 
tions in our northern skies constantly bring 
the painter brilliant and unexpected ef- 
fects." 

Going from a town life to a residence 
in the Fens is one of the greatest possible 
changes. The vastness of the horizon is 
something astonishing, and the effect of a 
sunset or the oncoming of a sudden thun- 
der-storm is sometimes unsurpassed in its 
grandeur. A thousand leagues of shadowy 
cloud will be transformed in a moment by 
a beaming ray, and the calm sluggish 
stream, still as a mirror, will glow like a 
lake of gold. 

It seems strange that we must go back a 
couple of thousand years for poetry to 
compare with that of the present day. 
Upon the shore of the Mediterranean lies 
the scenery which has such a large share in 
the beauties of Theocritus, but the charm 
is of a different kind from that of our 



WITH TENNYSON IN THE FENS. 177 

northern poet. There is none of the sweet 
mystery of our colder clime, none of the 
leafy glades, the secluded homesteads, the 
soft round forms of our heavy-foliaged 
trees ; none of the undulating lines of dis- 
tant hills, over which lie masses of cloud. 
The scenery which enchanted the poets of 
those days was full of glow and colour. 
Nature seemed to have put on her most 
festive robes ; the intense blue of the ocean 
blended with the still more brilliant hues 
of the sky, and far as the eye could reach 
there was neither mist nor cloud. Sum- 
mer rarely quits this genial latitude ; the 
labour required in cultivating the soil in 
colder climes, and which always gives a 
certain sternness to the most peaceful land- 
scape, is unknown there. It was seen by 
careful examination how much of the charm 
of Tennyson's poems arises from associa- 
tions of the inner life with the outward 
aspects of nature, but in the South life is 



178 THE OPEN AIR. 

free and spontaneous, and has always a 
tendency to outward development. 

The people of the South seem hardly 
changed ; there are constantly scenes and 
incidents occurring which remind one of 
the old poets, but great changes have taken 
place in our colder clime. It is only re- 
cently that we have had authors taking so 
much interest in the beauty of nature. 
How rarely Pope, with his fine and polished 
genius, seems to get beyond externals. 
Tennyson has examined closely all that 
is glowing, real, and suggestive in this 
life of ours, and has so faithfully recorded 
it that we often see our daily life by 
a light which has not gleamed upon it 
before. 

In the last century allusions to nature 
were generally of the most artificial kind. 
Those striking contrasts of life and death, 
nature and daily life, which we find in 
Tennyson, had no place in our literature. 



WITH TENNYSON IN THE FENS. 179 

We shall find no parallel to such a stanza 
as the following : — 

" Ah ! sad and strange as in dark summer dawns 
The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds 
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes 
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square." 

It is wonderful how the sense of ap- 
proaching death is contrasted by the happy 
life of nature just greeting the newly open- 
ing day. We feel strange sympathy with 
the ebbing life and its last fond yearning 
for the dear and familiar charms of the 
world it is fast leaving. We do not find 
such suggestiveness in the Greek poet. 

In all Tennyson's poems we detect the 
influence of his early impressions ; the ex- 
quisite description in the " Gardener's 
Daughter " may be taken as a proof — 

" Not wholly in the busy world, nor quite 
Beyond it, blooms the garden that I love. 
News from the humming city comes to it, 
In sound of funeral or of marriage bells. 
And, sitting muffled in dark leaves, you hear 
The windy changing of the minster clock ; 
Although between it and the garden lies 
A league of grass washed by a slow broad stream, 

N 2 



180 THE OPEN AIR. 

That, stirred -with languid pulses of the oar, 
"Waves all its lazy lilies, and creeps on 
Barge-laden to three arches of a bridge 
Crowned with the minster towers." 

How vividly they come back to him again 
and again we see in scores of instances. 
In the " May Queen" where he says : — ■ 

" When from the dry dark wold the summer airs blow cool 
On the oat-grass, and the sword-grass, and the bulrush 
in the pool." 

Tennyson is our only poet who has seen 
the beauty and suggestiveness of lowland 
scenery, and that is, perhaps, one reason 
of his striking individuality. It required 
an eye as keen, and a mind as penetrating, 
to make us comprehend that there was so 
much interest in the scenery. It is with a 
feeling of surprise that we recognise the 
poetry of such a stanza as that in 
" Mariana" — 

" Hard by a poplar shook alway, 
All silver-green, with gnarled bark ; 
For leagues no other tree did mark 
The level waste, the rounding grey." 

It is hardly possible in two simple lines to 



WITH TENNYSON IN THE FENS. 181 

make us feel more keenly that we are far 
away from the street and the factory than 
in these — 

" Each morn my sleep was broken thro' 
By some wild skylark's matin song." 

What a delicious feeling that is! We 
have arrived, perhaps, at a lonely farm or 
wood-embowered parsonage late at night 
after a weary journey by rail from some 
smoky town, where for many months we 
have heard no music but the clank of the 
hammer and the endless din of a thousand 
rattling wheels, and have jostled with a 
crowd of toil worn, ragged, and dusty way- 
farers. It is too late for friendly inter- 
course, too dark for a ramble in the neigh- 
bouring wood or upon the distant hill, 
and we hurry off to bed. Then when the 
rosy streak of dawn beams through the 
latticed window, and a soft wind rustles in 
the " windy tall elm-tree," we gently 
awake with the echo of such music in our 



182 WITH TENNYSON IN THE FENS. 

ears as we have not heard for many a day, 
and feel more grateful than ever to the 
poet who, in so few words, can idealise 
our present feelings, and by the magic of 
poetry banish all that is harsh, worldly, and 
sordid from our minds. 



THE OPEN AIR. 183 



CHAPTER XIV. 

WINTER OUT OF TOWN. 

It is impossible to help a feeling of 
regret when the short dull days and the 
long cold nights come back to us again. 
It seems at first as though the poetry of 
nature had entirely disappeared, and that 
we could only shut ourselves up for the 
winter, and look forward through the fog 
and the rain, the mud and snow, for the 
happy days, when we may once more 
wander in the woods and fields, and under 
the pleasant sunshine. 

After a time, however, we discover that 
even winter has some beauty, some in- 
terest, if nature is near at hand. Even 



184 THE OPEN AIR. 

the November fog has a certain picturesque 
beauty, a wild fantastic poetry, which 
gives to commonplace and familiar objects 
an air of mystery and suggestiveness in a 
thousand fantastic shapes and outlines. 
Thomson, the poet, beautifully describes 
the vastness sometimes given to an object 
when seen through the phantom illusions 
of a foggy atmosphere. Even in the 
murky streets we are sometimes reminded 
of the effects of mountain scenery, when 
the dense mass of vapour rolls aside from 
some steeple, bridge, or cathedral. 

In the country these picturesque changes 
are infinitely more various. Trees, hills, 
and rocks assume weird and ghostly as- 
pects, which fill the imaginative tempera- 
ment with singular fancies. The painters, 
too, have depicted many scenes under 
this peculiar atmosphere with splendid 
effect. The great artist Turner was so 
partial to the illusions produced in land- 



WINTER OUT OF TOWN. 185 

scape scenery by the aid of mist and cloud 
as to assert upon one occasion that you 
could never see any landscape which was 
not more or less foggy. 

Perhaps the chief interest that reconciles 
us to winter is the infinite variety of 
changes. How sudden and wonderful 
sometimes are the contrasts when a brisk 
wind arises and chases away the rolling 
vapours, and the air becomes sharp and 
the sky clear, and the trees, hills, and 
buildings stand out against the sky with 
sculpturesque clearness of outline ; or 
when, after a morning of brilliant sun- 
shine, the sky suddenly grows dark, and 
myriad snow-flakes fall silently around us 
and make the pathway quiet as a dream ! 
Gladly we draw nearer the fire and strive 
to forget the nipping atmosphere in a book 
or pleasant intercourse ; and what a trans- 
formation the next morning, when we look 
out of window and see every object sharply 



186 THE OPEN AIR. 

defined with its brilliant embroidery of 
silver; when it seems as though nature, 
defying us to say that she is ever un- 
graceful, has drawn round her in the night 
this ethereal mantle, and we hardly know 
whether we like her best in her robe of 
green leaves, or her glittering fall of snow ! 
Then we are tempted out of doors again. 
The boys are pelting each other with snow- 
balls, and even solemn Paterfamilias, for- 
getful of the dignity he finds it too hard 
to keep up, sacrifices it altogether by 
trying the effect of a slide upon the nearest 
pond ; while the young ladies and gentle- 
men of marriageable age find skating a 
wonderful pastime for the encouragement 
of tender questions and mysterious answers. 
We will venture to say courtship progresses 
quite as rapidly upon a piece of smooth 
ice as under leafy bowers in June. Per- 
haps Clara or Laura have never tried the 
skates before, or Charles has to show them 



WINTER OUT OF TOWN. 187 

some eccentric figure he has cut out, or a 
pretty shriek announces that Pa has had a 
tumble, and the strong arms of a certain 
cavalier are in requisition to set him on 
his legs again. At night, too, some senti- 
mental fellow proposes a dance by torch- 
light. Happy thought ! Won't that young 
gentleman find favour with the girls, and 
won't he carry his resolution notwithstand- 
ing all the frowns of mamma, or the warn- 
ings of maiden aunts of uncertain age who 
cannot face the air of a January midnight 
so well as they did a few (never mind how 
many) years ago. 

It is harder work to keep the game alive 
when there is a thaw, and the muggy 
murky atmosphere promises a wet thaw. 
Down it comes a perfect deluge at last. 
Umbrellas are nowhere. It is blown 
against the windows as though it bore a 
personal grudge against every inmate, and 
were bent upon swamping every fire, and 



188 THE OPEN AIR. 

soaking every carpet upon the premises. 
Then, if it cannot find its way into the 
house by the roof or any little crevice, 
down it splashes upon the ground, and the 
millions of drops dance together in every 
puddle in a perfect frenzy of delight that 
at last they have pent us indoors. There 
is our dear neighbour looking out of her 
window only two or three fields away ; she 
waves her handkerchief — all in vain ; that 
pleasant duett we had calculated upon 
must be left for to-night, and the book- 
seller who promised to get us the last new 
novel will of course not bring it. He will 
make some paltry excuse and send it to- 
morrow in the middle of the day, when we 
are just rejoicing in the sky clearing up, 
and are all going for a ride with Uncle 
John, who won't let a novel be put into 
the carriage upon any pretence whatever. 
How we long for the summer as the deluge 
keeps pouring down. Don't we conjure 



WINTER OUT OF TOWN. 189 

up a thousand pleasant days of sunshine 
and happy rambles in forest, vale, and 
meadow. Now there is a nice little pond 
upon the lawn, and the trim gravel paths 
are converted into tiny canals lined with 
box edging. Mary Ann runs in breath- 
less to say the " water is a droppin' on her 
bed, and what's she to do, please ?" Any- 
thing for a diversion. Even this is better 
than the terrible monotony of the last 
hour, and the children laugh merrily over 
the dropping well in the nursery bedroom. 
What is sport to them is — a plasterer's bill 
and the " man on the roof" to us. 

Happy for us if our domicile is a good 
old-fashioned thatched house. We defy 
the rain then, and if there is a substantial 
farm-yard attached we are sure to find 
something to interest us. Some neighbour 
passes in his light trap home from market 
or fair, so muffled up that only the tip of 
his nose is visible, perhaps reddened a 



190 THE OPEN AIK. 

little by the glow of a cigar. At other 
times we should get a nod and a wave of 
the whip, but his sole anxiety now is to 
get home and throw off that sopping over- 
coat, and drain the water out of his high 
boots. "We hear the shriek of the railway 
whistle at the distant station, and wonder 
if the passengers will have to remain all 
night with the station-master. Perhaps to- 
morrrow is Sunday, and dear Mr. Straight- 
way is to preach on behalf of the Sunday 
Schools; and if it continues like this the 
meadows will be a perfect swamp. We 
think of friends in town, and say how nice 
it must be to have pavements and gas and 
cheap conveyance when the weather is like 
this, forgetting how disgusted we were last 
Cattle Show with the noise, the smoke, the 
mud, and general confusion of a London 
winter, and how heartily glad we were to 
get back again. 

How coolly the animals take it in the 



WINTER OUT OF TOWN. 191 

strawyard! The old cart-horse seems as 
though he must be made of stone to stand 
there as he does, while fierce little currents 
are spouting from him in all directions. 
As to that pig, he has got some delicious 
morsel by his satisfied grunting, and 
wouldn't stir if it rained pitch-forks. With 
regard to the ducks and geese, of course it 
is second nature to them, and they only 
shake their wings a little and keep a sharp 
look out for the worms. Floss, the shaggy 
old dog, runs out for a moment, but doesn't 
like it. He has been pampered so much, 
and led such an indoor life, that he turns 
tail and in another moment is snoozing by 
the kitchen fire, waking up with a snort 
from time to time as he hears a rat scuf- 
fling behind the wainscot. The workmen 
in the big barn, though they are dry 
enough, do not think it incumbent upon 
them to work while the rain pours in this 
way, and they leisurely light a pipe each, 



192 THE OPEN AIR. 

and lounge at the barn door gossiping. 
One would be glad enough to have a chat 
with them, but your agriculturist is uncom- 
monly shy, or if not shy he suspects you 
have a motive in wishing to speak to him, 
so that the most you would get from Hodge 
or Giles would be a simple "yes" or 
"no." 

There is, unfortunately, too much an- 
tagonism between the labourer and his 
employer. The simple fellow thinks you 
will remind him of the day when he had a 
drop too much, or had that fight with the 
Squire's gamekeeper, or will inquire why 
he did not go to church last Sunday. He 
lives his own life in his own way, cannot 
understand your life, and will not believe 
that you can or have any real desire to 
enter into his. 

Altogether, the effect of mid- winter in 
the country, where the weather is con- 
tinually wet, is certainly depressing 



WINTER OUT OF TOWN. 193 

enough ; but at the worst it is not of very 
long continuance, and the delights of the 
first indications of spring amply compen- 
sate for all the previous dreariness. To 
watch day by day, and almost hour by 
hour, the gradual opening of the bud ; to 
see (almost like a heavenly smile coming 
unexpectedly into a plain homely face) 
the first flush of green break out upon the 
brown skeleton of the tree, or the long 
dusky scrubby hedgerow; to note the 
emerald hue of the meadows, and the faint 
fair blossoms of the first spring flowers, 
struggling in some instances with the last 
patches of the winter snow; to hear the 
cheerful notes of the birds chirping and 
twittering as though they understood the 
glory and splendour that was coming; — 
these and a thousand other sights and 
sensations of the time are well worth a 
few weeks' gloom and self-denial. 

In most cases, too, country people dis- 

o 



194 WINTER OUT OF TOWN. 

play a very sociable feeling. They enter 
more than is possible in the town into the 
feelings and pursuits of their neighbours. 
If there is much gossip and tittle-tattle 
there is also a genial spontaneous sym- 
pathy, and much genuine benevolence. 
Let it rain or snow, let the fog hide the 
landscape or frost harden the soil, there 
are always warm hearts and pleasant faces 
to be found at the country fire-side, no 
matter how dreary it is for a time out of 
doors. 



THE OPEN AIE. 195 



CHAPTER XV. 



RIVER SCENERY. 



Scarcely twice in a year do I experience 
such a pleasurable sensation as that I had 
a day or two ago from a glimpse of some 
charming river scenery, painted by an 
artist friend of mine, just returned from 
his annual sketching tour. The river 
scenery of England, as everybody knows, 
is not on a large scale, but of its kind 
there cannot be anything more exquisite. 
This question of size seems to have great 
influence over a certain class. The friend 
alluded to was painting a pretty little 
waterfall upon the river Wharfe, near 
Bolton Abbey, and a tall American came 

o 2 



196 THE OPEN AIR. 

up to him, saying, " Guess, stranger, you'd 
have no objection to be looked at?" 
" Certainly not," answered the artist. The 
American took his cigar from his lips, 
blew a long cloud, and after looking hard 
for some time at the sketch — " Well now, I 
estimate it's eternally like the St. Law- 
rence is this river Wharfe, only the St. 
Lawrence is ten times bigger." 

My Mend is a bit of a humourist. The 
fall he was painting could not have been 
more than twenty feet high at the most, 
and he was rather painting it for some 
peculiar combination of rock and brush- 
wood than for the cascade itself. Turn- 
ing quietly round to the Yankee, he said, 
with a face unmoved as the Sphinx, " As 
the river scenery about here reminds 
you of the St. Lawrence, no doubt this 
waterfall reminds you also of Niagara." 

The American did not answer a word, 
and went on his wav ; but two artists who 



EIVEE SCENERY. 197 

were sketching on the same spot could not 
restrain themselves, and laughed uproari- 
ously at the quiet manner in which his 
boasting had been thrown back upon him. 
The most celebrated, and as a whole the 
most charming of our rivers, is certainly 
the Thames; throughout its whole course 
it is full of interest, and in some parts has 
exquisitely beautiful scenery. It will be 
difficult to find any lovelier walk than that 
by the river-side from Maidenhead to 
Great Marlow, and the graceful bends of 
the stream about Goring and Pangbourne 
often remind one of the loveliest glimpses 
in the Lake district. Granted, the river is 
not very wide, yet size, I maintain, does 
not always bring beauty with it. In some 
of the great American rivers the banks are 
so far off, owing to the width of the stream, 
that the traveller loses their beauty, and 
the wide waste of water, league after 
league, becomes tiresome and monotonous. 



198 THE OPEN AIE. 

In our English river there is an almost 
unlimited variety to charm the wanderer, 
and some of our friends in their fishing 
excursions must have been delighted with 
many a picturesque scene. I have some- 
times paddled gently down the stream at 
daybreak on a fresh spring morning, at 
points between Henley and Oxford, and 
then the river is seen at its best. The 
many plantations on the banks encourage 
a great variety of birds, and ere the light 
has quite escaped from the cloudy bars of 
the night their sweet harmony begins. 
Soon the faint grey clouds are streaked 
with the first rays of the sunlight, and the 
village spire becomes a mass of molten 
gold ; each opening in the river glimmers 
as though the waves were on fire, and the 
waving grass in the meadows bordering 
the stream changes from its depth of hue 
to an almost golden green ; then the great 
heavy elms that stand like sentinels on the 



EIVEE SCENERY. 199 

river's brink shiver suddenly with a light 
breeze, and seem to be filled with flame ; 
and the sweet reflection of all this beauty- 
lies calm upon the softly-flowing river, 
and the music of the tiny lapping waves 
harmonises especially well with the early 
carols of the birds. 

The river, since the introduction of rail- 
ways, loses something of the importance it 
had years ago ; still, everywhere in Eng- 
land we see how the population has been 
drawn toward the rivers. This gives a 
thousand associations of the highest inte- 
rest to all our favourite streams. When 
we think of the Thames, for instance, we 
instantly recall a variety of sweet images 
— the view from Richmond Hill, the noble 
pile of Windsor, the towers of Eton Col- 
lege, immortalised by Gray ; the site where 
Magna Charta was signed; the fine old 
house at Twickenham, late the residence 
of a banished king ; Pope's villa not far 



200 THE OPEN AIE. 

away ; Marlow, famous as the residence of 
Shelley ; Chertsey, the spot where Cowley, 
after sighing all his days for the peaceful 
calm of country life, retired to die; the 
memories of Wolsey at Hampton ; and 
higher up the stream many a fine old his- 
torical seat, ruined abbey, or quaint ivy- 
covered church ; many a picturesque ferry 
and river-side inn, beloved by anglers from 
the town ; many a bright little weir, where 
the water dashes over and flashes like a 
glimpse of moonlight between the dark 
shadows of the trees; and the graceful 
openings and picturesque little reaches 
made by the windings of the stream have 
tempted poet, painter, and lover of nature 
to decorate the banks with gardens and 
trees, so that we have often the most agree- 
able contrasts. In the mid-stream there 
is the heavy barge lying deep in the water, 
with its load perhaps brought from some 
muddy creek in the outskirts of the smoky 



RIVER SCENERY. 201 

city, standing out in bold relief against 
the refinements of the closely-shaven lawn 
and rich flower bed upon the shore, or 
mingling in the reflections upon the stream 
its dusky sail and duskier hull with the 
bright front of some gay villa or grey old 
church tower. 

I have never heard the sweet musical 
ripple of a mountain stream without think- 
ing of the death-bed of Sir Walter Scott, 
with his affecting advice to Lockhart. 
Those who have read Lockhart's life of Sir 
Walter cannot have forgotten the exquisite 
pathos of the closing scene. 

" It was a beautiful day — so warm that 
every window was wide open — and so per- 
fectly still that the sound of all others most 
delicious to his ear, the gentle ripple of 
the Tweed over its pebbles was distinctly 
audible as we knelt around the bed, and 
his eldest son kissed him and closed his 
eyes." 



202 THE OPEN AIR. 

If it had no other great solemn memo- 
ries, if it had no beauty of its own, would 
not these words make the Tweed sacred 
for evermore ? 

Beside every English river what asso- 
ciations there are! The Wye with its 
memories of Tintern, heightened by the 
verse of Wordsworth, reflecting the hoary 
walls of Chepstow and Monmouth, and 
calling to mind the sweet idyll of the Man 
of Ross. The Severn with its rapid flood, 
its deep tides embalmed in the glorious 
verse of Shakespeare. The Medway, not- 
withstanding some humiliating reminis- 
cences of the Dutch, in days when no 
ironclad ships nor rifled cannon guarded 
the Chatham lines ; a muddy stream, but 
full of historical interest, flowing as it does 
by Rochester, by Allington Castle, Maid- 
stone, and Tunbridge, through thousands 
of acres of hop-ground, and past beautiful 
hills. 



EIVEE SCENERY. 203 

In no other country is so much interest 
taken in boating and fishing as in Eng- 
land. In no other country would such a 
book as Izaak Walton's Angler have been 
published. All our best poets and writers, 
all our painters have been influenced by 
the quiet charm of English river scenery. 
Perhaps not many of my readers have 
read Matthew Arnold's " Scholar Gipsy/' 
a poem which gives the most perfect pic- 
ture imaginable of the river scenery in the 
neighbourhood of Oxford. Hawthorne, 
when in this county, in his work entitled 
" Our Old Home, gives many sketches of 
great interest about the same scenery. 
All our English rivers have remembrances 
of celebrated men and celebrated places 
interwoven with their own claims to in- 
terest ; thus their peculiar charm has been 
the growth of centuries, and their place 
in the affections of the people has plainly 
not lessened, for never was there shown 



204 RIVEK SCENEKY. 

such a desire to free our favourite streams 
from pollution — never was there a greater 
interest shown in all places for beauti- 
fying and restoring the banks, and keep- 
ing up a clear full flood. There is more 
boating and angling than ever, and soon 
from London to Windsor there will hardly 
be a picturesque spot on the Thames that 
will not be crowned with a villa. It is 
curious to see how the Anglo-Saxon love 
of rivers produces the same effect in our 
colonies as here. Wherever there is a 
river there is the Anglo-Saxon also. 



71. m? I 



CHAPTER XVI. 



?:zj,=tiz }ii::v 



It is now the time of year when many 
new pleasure gardens will be laid out and 
many old ones air ere I. It may not be 
amiss to offer a few suggestions foi the 
consideration of those who avail them- 
seLves of the landscape gardener's art 

S me npon such occasions consult elabo- 
i t e authorities, and puzzle their brains 
ivei learned books fall of technical names, 
and find it very iifiicult to arrive at any 
definite plan. Others settle upon some 
formal line-and-rule arrangement, and 

__- it out at once, supremely indiuerent 
to soil, asj :;-. or natural advantages. 



206 THE OPEN AIE. 

Now, a pleasure ground, if for anything, 
is for pleasure. We do not object to its 
being looked at as an ornament, but it 
should also be a thing to be enjoyed. 
How badly managed we sometimes see 
them ! Often the only seat where we can 
rest for a chat with a pleasant friend, or 
dream over fine poetry, or spend a thought- 
ful hour in the midst of some deep care or 
anxiety, is in a spot exposed to a keen 
wind, or within sight of a stable or out- 
house, or close to a high road where the 
ear is constantly assailed with the grinding 
of heavy waggons on the gravel, or the 
noisy talk of loiterers, hawkers, tramps, 
and gipsies. 

Others overload the ground with brick 
and plaster work. At every step we see 
vases full to profusion of flowers ; terraces, 
arbours, fish-ponds, pavements, statues, 
&c. ; while the wearied eye wanders in 
vain for a soft green spot upon which it 



PLEASURE GARDENS. 207 

may rest and be thankful. The ground is 
so cut into pieces that there is only room 
for small patches of vegetation, and no 
large tree or shrub ever flourishes in such 
places. It is quite worth while to consider, 
before we lay out a pleasure ground or 
make any alteration, whether we cannot 
adopt a style that shall be in harmony 
with the house we live in, the character 
of the soil, the trees and shrubs actually 
standing upon the ground, and the distant 
landscape, if that should be visible from 
any point. In the Botanical Gardens, Ee- 
gent's Park, by cultivating a few flowers 
and shrubs in the vicinity of a mound, a 
charming retreat has been made, which 
has almost the appearance of a natural 
hill. From the top of this little mound 
we catch a view of Hampstead and the 
country beyond, and at once the mind of 
the spectator conceives the gardens to be 
much larger than they really are. 



208 THE OPEN AIE. 

Whoever arranges the plan of your gar- 
den should study first the spirit and ex- 
pression, if I may so speak, of the place. 
Nature after a time brings to each spot a 
special character and expression, so that 
no two places are exactly alike, any more 
than two human faces are. Sometimes a 
tree forms a prominent object in an un- 
favourable situation, and the inconsiderate 
gardener, almost before we can make up 
our minds, cuts it down. It will take 
thirty or forty years to grow such another. 
Why not have planted on the spot some 
other quick growing trees or shrubs, which 
by another season would modify the un- 
graceful character of the original tree — 
perhaps by contrast make it look really 
beautiful ? 

In grounds of any extent it will fre- 
quently happen that a tiny trickling stream 
will flow through the midst of a glade, and 
consequently it is unapproachable for the 



PLEASURE GARDENS. 209 

ladies on account of the damp. Our me- 
chanical gardener purposes to dig out the 
ground and put drain pipes down. This 
was actually suggested to a friend in Ox- 
fordshire, who, however, with a keen eye 
to the natural beauty of the spot, simply 
raised the bank from which the rivulet 
issued, and by a little arrangement of 
rough stonework allowed the jet to fall 
several yards into a rocky basin, and the 
effect of the splashing current sparkling 
through the shade of overhanging trees all 
the summer was soothing and delightful in 
the extreme. 

" You'll have an awful mess here, sir, in 
the winter,' said his gardener. But it was 
found after a careful survey of the ground 
that the very best outfall for the stream 
was into a pond, where a supply of water 
was often wanted. The current was easily 
diverted, a few shrubs and ferns planted 
over the irregular ground, and in a year 

p 



210 THE OPEN AIE. 

the despised rivulet became the chief 
attraction of the grounds. 

How often we see strong stone walls or 
heavy fences erected at the point where 
the pleasure ground joins with the neigh- 
bouring meadow, field, or wood — forcing 
nature, as it were, to meet us in our exclu- 
siveness. Frequently we are great losers 
by the plan. There is, probably, a fine 
group of trees on the opposite hill ; there 
is the spire of an old church in the valley; 
there is the brown sail of a barge creeping 
up the almost hidden stream. Plenty of 
suggestive images which amuse and gra- 
tify the fancy, and by their contrast 
heighten the refinement of our close- 
shaven lawn, our brilliant beds of flowers, 
our level walks and classic vistas. 

There is nothing, in my opinion, less 
graceful than a lawn blotched over with 
infinitessimal flower beds. Rich glowing 
masses of colour in the vicinity of a lawn 



PLEASURE GARDENS. 211 

are good, and are easily made to contrast 
with the lawn itself, without being- ac- 
tually cut out of it like the pattern of a 
fashionable skirt. The lawn is worthy of 
every care we can bestow upon it, but I 
think the extremely close shaving at pre- 
sent adopted is carried too far. The 
roots of the grass are torn, and, in hot 
weather, are exposed too much to the sun. 
What we gain in neatness, in the early 
spring, is lost in withered brownness and 
decay when the days are long, and the 
heat intense, and when a really green 
lawn would be a great attraction. 

In laying down a lawn, unless you look 
carefully into the matter yourself, the turf 
is frequently brought of a quality totally 
unsuitable for a confined space. Coarse 
blades and sedgy roots are by no means 
graceful, nor should we trust too much to 
the elegant surface given by clover seed. 
The mowing machine cuts off these grace- 

p 2 



212 THE OPEN AIK. 

ful heads, and leaves the lawn looking dull 
and earthy. Then we must see that the 
turf is laid upon a sufficient depth of fine 
mould, not upon a substratum of bricks 
and mortar, or a slough of despond in the 
shape of a clay bottom, which scarcely 
allows the lawn to dry in the finest wea- 
ther, and brings a coarse, raw-looking 
colour to the turf, which is anything but 
soothing to the eye. Properly laid down 
at first, the lawn may be kept in splendid 
condition with very little trouble or ex- 
pense. The importance of equal drainage, 
of course, must not be overlooked, or the 
grass is rank at one spot while it is 
withered in another. 

Evergreens, rich full-leaved winter- 
defying evergreens, heightening the splen- 
dour of a flower bed in the summer by 
their dense foliage, and giving a cheerful- 
ness to the rawest day of December — too 
much can hardly be said in their favour. 



PLEASUEE GARDENS. 213 

They have grace of form and depth of 
hue. They require so little attention. They 
hide in so short a time any barren or un- 
graceful spot, and lend themselves to any 
artistic combination. Sometimes in the 
spring we have lovely days, which seem 
almost sad through the bareness of the 
trees. If we leave the spot and go where 
there are well-arranged groups of ever- 
greens, summer seems to have met us half- 
way, and the same in the autumn. "When 
all the leaves have gone and the tapering 
branches stand ghost-like in the clear air, 
perhaps at the latter end of October, we 
have but to turn our eyes to the evergreens 
and we forget that the summer has past 
and gone. 

We must consider the changes of the 
seasons, and especially the winds in laying 
out our pleasure garden ; a fine bold tree 
fronting the east or north should on no 
account be cut down. Around the hop 



214 THE OPEN AIE. 

gardens of Kent trees are planted in ex- 
posed situations for no other purpose than 
to break the rude winds. There are 
flowers and shrubs which, if they are only 
sheltered, will grow and flourish as well 
as in their native and milder climates. 
Frequently the bad effects of a sudden 
frost are entirely owing to the wind upon 
which it was blown to the delicate plant or 
flower. 

I do not like trees near the house — at 
least very near. They are attractive in 
the few very hot days on account of the 
shade, but no house is healthy without 
plenty of light. Darkened rooms are in- 
jurious to the skin, to the eyesight, and to 
the hair. The blood is enfeebled, the 
spirits depressed. Light and air are the 
future watchwords of humanity. Heavy 
trees near the house encourage damp also. 
Besides, in time the trees grow incon- 
veniently. Some sturdy branch comes 



PLEASURE GARDENS. 215 

poking into a nursery window like the 
bowsprit of a ship, and this wilfully 
blocks out one of your prettiest views, or 
suggests inconvenient facilities for the 
housebreaker. You cut off the offending 
member, and your tree has lost its beauty 
for years. Large trees prevent your 
having flowers within sight of the win- 
dows : a great and never-tiring charm, 
especially to those who are not very ro- 
bust, and cannot face the rough weather. 

Summing up, then, our system of lay- 
ing out a pleasure ground, we should say, 
Aid nature as much as you possibly can. 
Arrange your plan so that the eye falls 
unconsciously upon graceful and attractive 
objects, and do not be too fond of copying 
the works of others. Walks should have 
some definite termination. Nothing is 
more absurd than a well-kept path, lead- 
ing up to a dead wall. The curved or 
straight path must depend upon the 



216 THE OPEN AIR. 

ground. If that is absolutely flat, the 
formal style of gardening is not so absurd 
as it at first appears. Overarching 
avenues and walls of greenery often break 
the monotony of level ground most agree- 
ably. 

Do not over-plant. Some open spots 
are requisite or flowers fare badly; beside, 
we are glad enough at many seasons of the 
year not to shun the gay sunlight. There 
are few weeks in an English year when we 
crave absolute shade. 

Do not cut and prune at random. Try 
before the fatal blow is given to imagine 
what the effect will be when the bough or 
branch is gone. Generally the graceful 
abandon of nature is preferable to any 
fancies of our own. 

Variety, too, is most desirable : for want 
of a little judgment at first planting we 
sometimes see a garden or pleasure ground 
filled with one shade of green. This may 



PLEASUKE GAEDENS. 217 

be very effective in a distant view when 
standing in contrast to a lofty cliff or 
broad down, but seen closer it soon tires. 

Avoid affected outlines. You do not 
see them in nature. The shrub cut in the 
shape of a humming-top or a grotesque 
caricature of a human head, or the hedge 
clipped into the letters of a name, as I 
have seen, are utter abominations to the 
artistic eye, and cannot give real pleasure. 



218 THE OPEN AIR. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

A BALLOON VOYAGE. 

At the risk of being called a dreamer, I 
cannot help expressing some regret that 
the Anglo-Saxon of to-day, and especially 
the Anglo-Saxon of large towns, should 
allow his higher faculties to become so 
over-ridden by materialism. The porch is 
swejDt and garnished, but the inner cham- 
bers of the temple of the soul are too often 
neglected and unclean. To my fancy an 
eye for the beautiful in nature, an ear for 
its sweet sounds, and a mind capable of 
appreciating the lofty thoughts suggested 
by its varied aspects seem as necessary for 



A BALLOON VOYAGE. 219 

the mental, as light, air, and sunshine are 
to the physical nature of man. 

I feel more and more the value that life 
has in itself independently of outward cir- 
cumstances; that, whether toiling under 
homely corduroy or ruling millions in im- 
perial purple, it is a glorious thing to be 
measured rather by what it is than by what 
it brings; for if happiness only came to 
those who are pecuniarily successful the 
measure of human misery would overflow 
speedily. 

I was led to think thus as I stood one 
afternoon last autumn upon one of the 
City bridges watching the incessant traffic 
upon the bridge itself, in the busy streets, 
upon the stream beneath, and the distant 
lines of railway, and saw, as crowds passed 
me, what a sameness of expression there 
was in nearly every face, when suddenly 
a hearty slap upon my shoulder and a ring- 
ing voice in my ear startled me. 



220 THE OPEN AIE. 

Turning sharply round, I saw a lively 
young merchant, at whose house I am 
always welcome when in London. 

"We could not have met in a better 
place or at a better time," he said. 

I inquired why. 

" I want you to go up in a balloon with 
me," was the answer. " It will be a new 
phase of open-air life. You have seen na- 
ture under every other aspect, but you 
have not" yet looked down upon her, and 
that is what I should like you to do this 
afternoon." 

I looked incredulous. 

" I am quite serious, I assure you. Come 
along; it will be a novel sensation for you, 
and there could not be a finer time than 
we shall have for the next few hours." 

" But I cannot go at a moment's notice," 
I pleaded. " My friends are expecting me 
to dine with them." 

"Well, here comes an omnibus which 



A BALLOON VOYAGE. 221 

will pass the door. It will be quicker than 
the telegraph; just pencil a line and let 
the conductor leave it. Make haste, there's 
a good fellow." 

" But I have scarcely any cash about 
me, for I only intended taking a short 
stroll before dinner." 

" Never mind about cash : you won't 
want any. The seat is already paid for, 
but the fellow who should have gone pre- 
tends to be ill at the last moment. I'll be 
bound he was frightened instead. But its 
very lucky I met you." 

To speak the truth, I sympathised not a 
little at the moment with the gentleman 
who had got out of the engagement in this 
easy way, but my friend threw such a con- 
temptuous emphasis into his words as he 
related the fact that I was ashamed to con- 
fess that I was a little timid myself, and 
would rather confine my enjoyment of 
nature to terra firma. But I could not 



222 THE OPEN AIR. 

withstand my companion's banter, and the 
consequence was that I allowed him to 
drag me into a Hansom, and in less than 
half an hour I found myself seated in the 
car of the "Royal Brunswick Balloon," 
filled with gas and passengers, bound hea- 
ven knows whither, and just ready for the 
start. 

Besides the aeronaut, Mr. Boxwell, there 
were half a dozen occupants of the car, in 
addition to my friend and myself. One 
was a clever young artist whose landscapes 
last year at the Royal Academy Exhibition 
attracted considerable attention. ■ Another 
was a pianist, whose compositions played 
by himself are very popular at the Crystal 
Palace and elsewhere. Then there was 
a physician, with a blanch manner and 
very oily voice ; and a mild young 
curate in charge of two ladies who seemed 
to have as much courage as any of the 
party. 



A BALLOON VOYAGE. 223 

The aeronaut lias completed all the pre- 
parations for the ascent, and given us many 
instructions and cautions to prevent any 
mishap. The huge machine sways to and 
fro above our heads like a gigantic pegtop. 
A number of men are standing around us 
holding on to the car, and a little bustle is 
occasioned as they hand out the heavy 
iron weights that steady it and replace 
them with bags of sand. Very little re- 
mains to be done ; the grapnel, with its 
various hooks, which is to serve as the 
anchor of our aerial ship, is hanging over 
the side of the car in company with the 
guide rope. As far as I can judge, every- 
thing is ready. 

After a slight experimental ascent, evi- 
dently made to satisfy Mr. Boxwell, we 
came down again to earth to rise again 
speedily, a cannon being fired as a signal. 

Almost immediately after the sudden 
impulse given to the balloon by the start 



224 THE OPEN AIE. 

all sense of motion is suspended. If the 
comparison be not too far-fetched, one might 
say that we floated upon an ever-rising but 
invisible tide, but that the ocean upon 
which we floated had no shore, and the 
ship in which we sailed was not obedient 
to the helmsman. As the wind so would 
our course be. 

Silence fell upon the whole party for a 
considerable time as we rose into the upper 
air, and no wonder, for, common-place as 
it seems to speak of a balloon ascent, there 
are yet but a few who have experienced 
this strange sensation. It was a glorious 
afternoon, but by the time the start was 
actually effected the day began to decline, 
and the sun tinted with gorgeous hues the 
fleecy clouds that sailed first above us and 
then far beneath us through the realms of 
sj}ace. It being autumn, the light declined 
rapidly, and by the time we had reached 
a good altitude the moon was faintly 



A BALLOON VOYAGE. 225 

shining, and here and there also some twink- 
ling stars. Though we were so far above 
the earth, how immeasurably farther they 
seemed from us, and how strange it was, 
when our ship came near little islands of 
cloud, to see it pass completely through 
them, instead of coasting round their phan- 
tom shores, or stranding upon their ghostly 
reefs ! 

Above us and around us only the toppling 
heights and fantastic headlands of cloud- 
land. Beneath us at an awful depth lay the 
dome of St. Paul's glittering tremulously 
in the reflection of the sunlight, and re- 
minding me of the awful red-hot cone of 
Dante's Inferno. The river, with its flaming 
waves narrowed by the distance, seemed 
but a golden stripe upon the dark embroi- 
dery of streets, squares, churches, factories, 
and palaces. It was a spectacle I looked 
upon with beating heart and throbbing 
brain, but with a sense of disappointment 

Q 



226 THE OPEN AIE. 

that I could but so feebly embody it in 
words. There was nothing I could com- 
pare with it ; once only in my life had I 
seen aught that gave the faintest resem- 
blance. Then I was in a boat upon a 
highland loch, in so complete a calm that 
not a breath of air stirred leaf or wave, 
cloud or blade of grass. The clear trans- 
parent water, smooth as glass, reflected 
rocks, trees, cattle, fields, cottages, and 
clouds in one harmonious picture, appa- 
rently many a mile beneath the motionless 
boat in which I sat, and gave such a sense 
of vastness as I never experienced again 
till seated in the car of the balloon. 

The strangeness and grandeur of the 
scene as we looked over the edge of the 
car soon took away the sense of danger 
which, I believe, though nobody would 
confess it, filled our minds for the first few 
minutes after we started, and made us all 
wonderfully silent and abstracted. As we 



A BALLOON VOYAGE. 227 

rose steadily and imperceptibly every object 
beneath became smaller and smaller. The 
vessels below bridge dwindled to the size 
of toys. The huge cathedral, which had 
formed an imposing object at first as we 
looked at it across the roofs of mighty 
warehouses, might now be only the chief 
ornament of the supper table at an evening 
party. In the shadow of the huge buildings 
the bustling streets appeared like ditches, 
and the busy crowds hurrying through 
them like so many insects — a fancy that 
was assisted by the street lamps, which 
were just being lighted, and looked like so 
many glowworms upon the banks. 

What a narrow spot it seemed, to have 
been the theatre of such important deeds 
as I could recall during its past history! 
Kings, warriors, priests — men of thought 
and men of pleasure — the millionaire and 
the vagrant strut and fret their little hour 
upon its merciless flagstones. It hardly 

Q 2 



228 THE OPEN AIE. 

seems possible that I have been one 
among them, floating now so calmly upon 
this silent sea with the shadow of the 
twilight gradually melting everything be- 
neath into one undistinguishable mass, and 
the fading sunlight gilding the fantastic 
peaks of an immeasurable cloudland in the 
far distance. 

We had ascended at first almost perpen- 
dicularly, but now a slight current of air 
wafted us gently away from the city south- 
ward, and the dusky mass of churches and 
warehouses, palaces and factories, docks 
and bridges faded into a mass of indistinct 
outlines, and we were sailing rapidly out 
into the open country. The striking spec- 
tacle of the vast city with the intense as- 
sociations connected with it having passed, 
a reaction fell for a time upon our little 
party, and we were somewhat gloomy. 
The darkness also increased rapidly, 
and there were not wanting some who 



A BALLOON VOYAGE. 229 

prophesied danger and difficulty in the 
descent- 
Mr. Boxwell, however, was calm, firm, 
and collected, and answered the questions 
put to him — some of them I have no doubt 
absurd enough — with quiet confidence, and 
sometimes with a smile. He assured us 
that with the pleasant and steady wind in 
our favour we should clear the range of 
the Surrey hills by dusk, and find a safe 
and easy landing-place upon some heath 
or common near to a village, where we 
could shelter for the night. Indeed, it was 
not long before the dusky ridges of the 
hills about Reigate came in sight, and we 
hailed with delight the twinkling lamps of 
the town shining out of the gulf beneath 
like very insignificant stars. The aeronaut 
threw out some bags of sand to lighten the 
balloon for a time so as to continue in the 
same current, and I shall not easily forget 
the blank looks upon two or three faces 



230 THE OPEN AIE. 

when the machine, which had been gradu- 
ally coming a little nearer mother earth, 
shot gaily tip higher. 

"We soon perceived what purpose our 
guide^had in view^ for shortly after we 
had lost sight of the lamps of the town he 
allowed some of the gas to escape, and we 
began rapidly to descend, 

" Keep your seats, gentlemen; be per- 
fectly steady and obey my instructions, 
and you will have nothing to fear/' said 
the aeronaut. The moon was rising, too, 
which he said would be of great help to us 
in choosing a suitable spot for the descent. 

Notwithstanding these assurances we 
speedily found that the least agreeable 
part of the expedition was to come, for 
scarcely had the moon revealed to us a 
broad heath, which looked inviting for the 
descent, when a dense mass of clouds ob- 
scured her light, and, coming down to the 
ground in the darkness, we bumped, 



A BALLOON VOYAGE. 231 

jolted, and scuffled over the wide heath 
like an express train gone mad. We 
were too breathless and excited by the 
strange movement to ask any questions, 
and the sole object of everybody appeared 
to be to hold on might and main to the 
ropes of the car. Our conductor's advice 
" to keep our seats " was so obviously im- 
possible that it caused a faint laugh, which 
was stifled in its birth by a plunge of the 
car into a mass of bushes and under- 
growth, which for a second brought our 
barque to a stand. Some of us were for 
jumping out instantly, but the warning 
voice of our conductor restrained us, and 
with good reason, for a puff of wind 
hoisted the balloon in. another moment 
forty or fifty yards above the ground, and, 
brushing against the boughs of a sturdy 
old tree, threw us all unceremoniously into 
the bottom of the car, making woful havoc 
of sundry wine bottles and the remains of 



232 THE OPEN AIR. 

a repast we had indulged in shortly after 
the ascent. 

Fortunately nobody was hurt, and all 
were rejoiced to learn that the aeronaut 
had, by skilfully throwing out the grapnel 
at the moment of collision, succeeded in 
hooking the vast machine to the trunk of 
the tree. 

And now the question was how to get 
out of the car. It was too far and too 
dark to jump down, and the balloon 
swayed too and fro, occasionally beating 
against the boughs : so it was impossible to 
climb down that way. While we were 
wondering in what way the descent would 
be effected we heard sounds of rustic 
joviality near at hand. 

" For he's a jolly good fellow," &c, we 
could hear distinctly in an uproarious 
chorus, and Mr. Boxwell shouted with all 
his might to attract their attention when 
the first pause came in the harmony. 



A BALLOON VOYAGE. 233 

Meanwhile the gas rapidly escaping 
made the movements of the balloon more 
eccentric than ever. At one moment 
yards of the silk would collapse, and a 
puff of wind blowing into this loose por- 
tion would almost capsize the machine. 
Then in the next instant we would find 
ourselves blown a few yards from the 
tree, which shook in every leaf and branch 
from the strain. It seemed likely enough 
that we should pass the whole night in 
this delightful position, for our friends 
who were enjoying themselves at the way- 
side inn bellowed out another roystering 
chorus, and were as oblivious to our diffi- 
culties as the man in the moon. 

But everything comes to an end, even 
village beer-drinking and chorussing, and 
at last, with boisterous leavetaking, the 
rustics came out of the alehouse, and, to 
our great joy, turned in our direction. 
Again Mr. Boxwell shouted and held up a 



234 THE OPEN AIK. 

lantern to show the direction, but for a 
considerable time there was no response, 
though we were certain the party must be 
quite close to us. 

A dead silence had fallen upon the 
party lately so noisy and mirthful. Evi- 
dently they were mystified, and their 
brains too much muddled by their pota- 
tions to have any clear idea what the 
sound was that came from the upper air. 
At last one of the men a little clearer in 
the head than the rest called out the word 
" balloon !" lustily, and then the whole 
party seemed to comprehend the chances 
of more beer, and rushed to the spot with 
drunken eagerness. Stimulated by the 
promise of a reward, the rawboned yokels 
held on to the balloon like grim death, 
haw-hawing with noisy enjoyment of our 
position. 

Soon their united strength, coupled 
with the decreasing size of the balloon, 



A BALLOON VOYAGE. 235 

enabled them to haul it down close to the 
ground, and we stepped once more upon 
the firm earth, not a little pleased that the 
adventure was ended. 

The people at the inn, not dreaming of 
new customers at that hour, were just put- 
ting out the lights when we arrived. It 
was a clean and commodious hostel, hav- 
ing been a house of some importance in 
coaching days, and with a little contri- 
vance they managed to find sleeping ac- 
commodation for all the party. We had 
lighted upon one of the heaths below the 
picturesque range called the Hog's Back, 
leading to Farnham. 

I should have slept better than I did 
had it not been for a singular dream. I 
dreamt that I was still in the balloon, but 
entirely alone, and in such a position that 
I had no control whatever of its move- 
ment. I had lost all power of the will, 
and was lying at the bottom of the car 



236 THE OPEN AIR. 

unable to move hand or foot. Higher and 
higher ascended the balloon, and as I lay 
in the car I could see masses of golden- 
tinted cloud miles above, which, however, 
at the rate we proceeded, I felt we should 
pass in a few seconds. 

A thousand wild fancies passed through 
my brain as I lay there helpless. I re- 
membered to have read somewhere that 
above a certain height a balloon filled 
with ordinary gas would be sure to ex- 
plode and fly into atoms. While brood- 
ing upon this idea there actually was 
a crash — an explosion. My doom, then, 
had come, and the machine was in frag- 
ments ! If I needed any confirmation of 
the fact, there, plainly before my eyes, 
were pieces of the silk of which the bal- 
loon was composed, flapping about as the 
skeleton of the machine sank rapidly, each 
instant swifter and swifter. My conscious- 
ness still remained, and what surprised me 



A BALLOON VOYAGE. 237 

most of all was that the car still retained 
its steady position. But there seemed no 
doubt of the rapidity of my descent, for 
the cloud in which I had lately been en- 
veloped was now far above me. I could 
not move. I dared not if I had had the 
power, but I calculated by the time I had 
been descending that I must now be within 
a short distance of the earth. Yes! my 
conjecture is right. Yonder lofty hill — 
those trees confirm it! Another second 
more and I shall be dashed to pieces. I 
had been silent hitherto from sheer horror, 
but now I uttered a piercing cry. 

"My good fellow! what is the matter 
with you?" said the friend who had in- 
induced me to make the ascent, and who 
now stood wondering at my bedside. 

I awoke. 

" Thank heaven ! then it was but a 
dream," I exclaimed, as I related my 
vision. 



238 THE OPEN AIE. 

" What great events from little causes 
rise!" said my companion, laughing 
heartily. " Who would have though that 
a servant-girl breaking some sticks to 
light the fire, and a few large vine-leaves 
flapping against the casement, would have 
produced this ?" 

" But it was a terrible dream," I said, 
" for all that. I can fancy I see that im- 
mense cloud still." 

"Of course you can," he retorted. 
" There it is sailing away over the hills. 
And now forget your dream and come to 
breakfast." 

A merry breakfast we had, and a lovely 
walk afterwards. Few Londoners know 
what beautiful scenery lies within thirty 
miles of their smoky home. The views 
from many of the hills beyond Guild- 
ford are magnificent. Hundreds of feet 
below are broad fields of corn. Sweet 
perfumes come upon the fresh breeze from 



A BALLOON VOYAGE. 239 

the wild thyme and other herbs that grow 
upon the steep sides of the downs. There 
is that peaceful calm upon the vast ex- 
panse, so soothing to the dweller in towns 
wearied with the clatter of traffic night 
and day. Here and there a thin column 
of smoke tells of the cottage or farmhouse. 
Here and there, too, the rustic spire 
peeps through the embowering trees, and 
glimpses of shady lanes leading to deli- 
cious sylvan solitudes, where the poet may 
linger and dream away the livelong sum- 
mer day without a wish or care beyond 
the sweet beauty that encompasses him on 
every side. 

But the members of our party were not 
poets or painters. Some had engagements 
in town, and made with all speed for the 
nearest railway station. For myself I 
lingered there the rest of the day, and 
wrote under the shadow of a tree this 
sketch of a Balloon Voyage. 



240 THE OPEN AIE« 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

AGEICULTUEAL LABOUEEES. 

It is no easy matter for a writer upon 
rustic topics to make the townsman under- 
stand the inner life of the rural labourer. 
The main facts of life are of course very 
similar in country and in town. There 
are the same passions and vices, the same 
instincts and virtues upon the lonely moor 
and in the hay field as in the Belgravian 
Square and the smoky alley. But there 
are so many modifications of character 
and manner caused by peculiarities of 
rustic life that one sometimes comes across 
men and women in out-of-the-way places, 
within perhaps fifty or a hundred miles of 



AGRICULTURAL LABOURERS. 241 

London, who seem at first as strange and 
peculiar to the Londoner as though they 
were South Sea Islanders, and appear to 
have nothing in common with him save 
the language they speak, and even that is 
so narrowed and abbreviated by their habits 
of life that frequently it is scarcely intel- 
ligible. 

Take, for instance, the shepherd as we 
find him upon the lonely Berkshire downs. 
Mile after mile of sheepwalk stretches away 
into the distance, and, coming suddenly 
from the busy streets of the city or the 
noisy clank of the factory, it is difficult 
to realise the fact that we are only forty 
miles or so from the vast capital of England. 
We look far and wide, and the only objects 
that meet the eye are flocks of sheep scat- 
tered over the waste, mere specks upon the 
short herbage of the downs, and here and 
there a bush or stunted tree. In some 
places where the soil is somewhat richer a 

R 



242 THE OPEN AIE. 

clump of trees with the outline of a gable- 
end, or the homely cones of a rick or two, 
reveal a solitary farm where we may be 
sure the tenant, though his rent is nearly 
nominal, has a hard fight to make both 
ends meet, and a life with very little 
enjoyment in it, for summer comes late 
and winter early upon these solitary 
downs. 

The shepherd leads a more primitive life 
still. His isolation is complete ; out in all 
weathers, and separated from the rest of the 
world, it is no wonder that he becomes a 
little uncouth in his manners. His meals 
are all taken al fresco upon the trunk of an 
old tree or the bare down, while his only 
table is perhaps a smooth white stone, and 
his only companion the shaggy old dog, 
who seems to understand him better than 
some of the black-coated people who by a 
rare chance stroll through his domain. 
Indeed, some of these visitors do not 



AGRICULTURAL LABOURERS. 243 

meet with, a very warm reception from our 
shepherd. They make suggestions regard- 
ing his flock which raise a smile because 
of their impracticable nature, or else ques- 
tion him closely as to his life and habits, 
and affect a pious horror when they learn 
that he has not been inside a church half a 
dozen times in his life. They do not always 
come off best in the argument, for the shep- 
herd, having a deal of time for meditation, 
often makes a shrewd retort or original 
remark which silences his examiners. 

" I don't have many visitors," said a 
shepherd one day to me, " and, to speak 
my mind, they are most of them better 
away. I keep myself quiet up here, and 
mind my own business. I don't want to 
cavil at smart folks that don't understand 
my way of life, but I think if they know 
nothing about sheep it's useless for them 
to find fault with a shepherd; and as to 
church-going they can't tell what a man's 

r 2 



244 THE OPEN AIR. 

inward thoughts may be. I mumble to 
myself a bit of a prayer or a hymn my old 
mother taught me, or I cut out a text on 
the chalky down, and it does me good to 
sit and think about it all Sunday afternoon. 
It's true I hear no church bells at this dis- 
tance, and feel strange when I do get 
inside a church ; but as I see the sun set or 
rise, and watch some of the grand thunder- 
storms we get on these downs, and the 
wonderful clouds, I make a better sermon 
out of 'em than you'd think. And remem- 
ber it's not always summer. It's sharp 
work in the lambing time, when a shepherd 
would as soon think of leaving the sheep 
to themselves as he would of neglecting 
his own children. Very often a keen north- 
easter is blowing all the night as he watches 
behind a thatched hurdle in his old great- 
coat, and his legs tied up with hay-bands 
to keep a little life in them. Why, sir, I 
have had the bread freeze in the pocket of 






AGEICULTUEAL LABOUEERS. 24 5 

my old coat when I have been watching 
on these downs in winter ; and in wet 
weather I may say I haven't been dry for 
days together. Talk of teatotallers — let 
'em try a shepherd's life for three months, 
and if they didn't break the pledge by that 
time I'm a Dutchman. And folks say I 
lead a lazy life, too ; why, when I'm 
making a fold in winter time upon frosty 
ground with thirty or forty stakes to drive 
into the earth before I can fix the hurdles, 
and the soil as hard as stone, I can't be 
very idle, I think. I don't wish to boast, 
but I should say a shepherd wants as many 
good qualities as any other calling. He 
must know his flock by heart as a scholar 
knows his book, and study what is good 
or bad for 'em. He must know the kind 
of soil where they are likely to take the 
rot, and keep stock in his head of what 
they can be fed upon when seasons are 
dry and herbage scarce. Why, if the 



246 THE OPEN AIK. 

shepherd was a careless fellow he'd lose 
his master a hundred pounds in a week if 
there was a large flock !" 

I listened to the old shepherd's defence 
of his calling with considerable interest, 
and came away from the solitary Berk- 
shire down feeling how easy it was to 
think lightly of another man's way of 
life through want of knowledge or con- 
sideration. 

I cannot but think after all that the 
shepherd's life is more enviable than that 
of the poor ploughboy, whose occupation, 
so often described in poetical language 
and with much romantic colouring, is in 
reality a most arduous one. Look at his 
thick laced-up boots, shod as they are 
with nails and heavy tips, which are a load 
in themselves to carry, and it is no wonder 
that the poor lad after the day's labour 
drags his legs like a convict heavily 
chained. The pluck and courage most ot 



AGRICULTURAL LABOURERS. 247 

these boys display in their difficult task 
one cannot help admiring. See them 
when it is barely light in the morning 
bringing out the heavy horses and touch- 
ing them up with a stumpy whip, or 
urging them in a voice of command which 
many a smooth-faced young officer might 
envy ; or in the furrow after a heavy rain, 
when their feet are clogged with several 
pounds of mud in addition to their heavy 
boots, and the blundering, stumbling, 
sliding hoofs of the horses threaten them 
with a broken leg every moment ; or, 
when they come to the end of the furrow, 
and plough, horses, boy, and man are 
jumbled together like a train in collision, 
it is impossible not to sympathise with the 
boy's vigorous effort to put matters straight 
for the next furrow. 

But these boys infinitely prefer the 
plough with all its drudgery to the harrow. 
In ploughing he goes at a steady pace, and 



248 THE OPEN AIR. 

his chief task is to watch the horses and 
the ploughman, but harrowing is com- 
monly done in hot dusty weather, and 
the horses, having a comparatively light 
load, step over the firm soil at a rapid 
pace, which obliges the boy very often to 
run to keep up with them. Then the har- 
row is constantly clogged up with the 
weeds collected, and which must be cleared 
away to make its services efficient. What 
with the labour, the thick cloud of dust, 
and the toil of running many miles a day, 
it is about the hardest labour a boy can 
have. Yet with this severe physical exer- 
tion, with exposure to the weather, and 
very hard living, these boys look better 
than their fellows in the town, pent up 
in close workshops and factories. They 
learn also to shift for themselves in a way 
that is very useful to them in after life. 
Many such boys have become men of 
mark. As for the ploughman, with a keen 



AGEICULTUEAL LABOURERS. 249 

eye and strong arm his course is pretty 
clear, and, like some officers who get the 
credit for victories won by the hardihood 
of the men under them, the ploughman is 
often flattered for effects which the sturdy 
lad in front of him has mainly helped 
to produce. 

A useful man about a farm is the 
thatcher; the skill and even the elegance 
sometimes displayed in this work merit 
very high commendation. Generally the 
thatcher takes pride in his task, and so 
carefully is the straw manipulated that a 
thin layer will keep out the heaviest storm. 
It is amusing, too, to see the fanciful con- 
ceits which the thatcher indulges in when 
the rick is once protected from a portend- 
ing downfall. Sometimes his artistic taste 
inclines to royalty, and he "crowns the 
edifice " or he has a fancy to imitate some 
bird or animal of the farmyard, and his 
labour is concluded with a straw image of 



250 THE OPEN AIE. 

a pig, a swan, or a peacock. I have seen 
a straw weathercock stuck upon a wooden 
spike and turning to every point of the 
compass, or a pre-Raphaelite edging of 
plaited straw has formed the ridge of an 
oblong wheatrick. When our friend has 
to thatch the roof of the farmhouse itself 
he adopts a graver style. Any whimsi- 
cality that would call up a joke among the 
farm labourers appears to him out of place 
as connected with the master's roof, which 
he proceeds to cover in a solemn business- 
like style, and finishes with some severity 
of taste, cutting the eaves with mathema- 
tical precision, and pinning down with the 
greatest care every edge or corner ex- 
posed to the wind. Old-fashioned country 
people still prefer the thatched roof, and say 
it is warmer in winter and cooler in sum- 
mer than a roof of tiles or slate. For 
many reasons it does not seem well 
adapted for towns, though as near London 



AGRICULTURAL LABOURERS. 251 

as Shepherd's Bush there is a thatched 
house which appears to answer very 
well. 

The hedger and ditcher is altogether a 
sterner artist than the thatcher ; with his 
thick hard leather gloves and keen hatchet 
he wages sharp war with the exuberance of 
nature, turning the prickly thornbush and 
straggling branches into a strong and 
serviceable fence, which it must be con- 
fessed is often far from ornamental. Yet 
kindly Dame Nature is always doing her 
best to hide the utilitarian deformities of 
money-making farmers, and before many 
months have passed the grim skeleton- 
looking hedge is sprouting again, and, 
bating a little stiffness in the outlines, forms 
a graceful border to the fields. But it is a 
woful day for the wild flowers and the 
birds when the hedger and ditcher begins 
his task. How remorselessly the grim 
fellow tears up the wild honeysuckle, the 



252 THE OPEN AIE. 

primrose, the bluebell, the clinging con- 
volvulus, and all the gay varieties of bloom 
that haunt the sunny banks of a deep dry 
ditch ! Many a time has the artist spent a 
happy day in imitating that wealth of 
graceful and delicate hues, but the de- 
stroyer is thinking only of making the 
water-course run freely, and, having lopped 
off the topmost boughs of the hedge, and 
twisted and pulled the branches into an 
intricate network which may defy the efforts 
of an adventurous pig to crawl through 
or a frisky cow to jump over, he ruthlessly 
clears out this exquisite bank, and ridges it 
up witn mud and clay from the bottom of 
the ditch. My good hedger and ditcher, 
you have, alas ! no feeling for the pictu- 
resque, and I have many a time heard the 
anathemas of the young painter after 
following in your wake. As a rule the 
countryman, and especially the uneducated 
countryman, is blind to the beauty of 



AGEICULTUEAL LABOURERS. 253 

nature, and only becomes conscious of it 
when his taste has been awakened by the 
wandering tourist, or artist in search of 
new material for his studio : left to himself, 
the rustic has a constant hankering for the 
delights of town life. 

But it is impossible to think without 
pity of the condition of an old man who 
has laboured all his days upon the soil, and 
when past work sees before him only the 
workhouse as an asylum. Looking back 
upon his past life, how many peaceful 
victories he can remember which have 
brought him scant reward ! There, as he 
rests his poor rheumatic limbs upon a 
friendly stile, he sees the golden billows of a 
wheat-crop where in his youth was only a 
desolate sedgy moor, now redeemed and 
made profitable by his labour. Yonder, 
where a flock of sheep are feeding in a 
luxuriant meadow, he remembers a swamp 
flooded half the year by the rivulet which his 



254 THE OPEN AIR. 

labour turned into another channel. That 
sandy waste, where the very weeds refused 
to take root, he dug up and manured year 
after year. Many a matted slope of stringy 
weeds he has torn up with his hands, and 
sown productive seeds in their place. And 
not only do the fields before his eyes speak of 
his handiwork in other days: there is hardly 
a square yard in the parish which he has 
not worked upon at some time during these 
long past years. His labour produced that 
plantation of noble trees, levelled and 
drained the roads ; in fact, the village that 
gives him the meagre shelter of the work- 
house in his solitary age is in great part 
his own creation. He is contemptuously 
spoken of for his ignorance and his clown- 
ishness, but why is he ignorant and clown- 
ish ? Because the best of his life has been 
given to increase and adorn the possessions 
of others. 

Poor fellow ! he bears the mark of suffer- 



AGRICULTURAL LABOURERS. 255 

ing in every look and movement, and 
perhaps he is left alone in the world, his 
worn-out wife and sickly family having 
forgotten the hardships of their lot in the 
kindly grave. 

Considering the importance and value of 
the agricultural labourer, it is surprising 
to think how little is done to amend his 
condition. The circumstances of his life 
are seldom favourable to cultivation of the 
mental powers, or education of the taste. 
The hard necessities of daily life press upon 
him hour by hour. Often enough his 
cottage is a miserable damp unhealthy 
dwelling, surrounded by noisy, dirty, and 
dissipated neighbours ; the rooms are small 
and few, and his family is compelled to 
huddle together in a manner which sets 
decency at defiance. Amusement or recre- 
ation he has none. The cheap attractions 
that wean the town mechanic and labourer 
from the gin palace are rarely supplied for 



256 AGRICULTURAL LABOURERS. 

him. Apart from his wretched home there 
is only the society of the tramp and va- 
grant, with the low beershop to drain him 
of his last remaining coin. 



THE OPEN AIE. 257 



CHAPTER XIX. 

A VILLAGE CHURCH. 

Brought up in a country village, I recall 
many pleasurable associations connected 
with the church where I spent no incon- 
siderable portion of each Sunday, and I 
am disposed to think that the boys of that 
day were better pleased to go to church 
than they are now. Not that I set myself 
up as one of those youthful saints we some- 
times read of, who seem never to have 
laughed at the absurdities of a pantomime, 
never to have known the fearful delight of 
being caught far up an apple-tree by the 
irate proprietor thereof, or the joy of hav- 
ing tied a tin kettle to the tail of some old 



258 THE OPEN AIE. 

dame's favourite grimalkin ; never stuck 
an arrow into the brawny flank of an over- 
fed pig, or smoked out a wasj)s' nest with 
sulphur, getting awfully stung in the pro- 
cess, but rejoicing as only boys can rejoice 
at a final victory over the buzzing insects. 
I think we boys liked going to church 
because it was more like going to a family 
party than the stiff formal ceremony we 
are most accustomed to in large towns, 
where the ladies will deck themselves in 
their gayest colours, and covet, if not their 
neighbour's house, at least her bonnet, if 
smarter than their own. In our village 
the ladies were so well acquainted with the 
wardrobes of their neighbours that it was 
not necessary to make a display on Sunday in 
order to show some feminine rival over the 
way that they were not behind the fashion. 
Our church was the prominent feature 
of the village ; it was beautifully situated, 
hidden amongst tall elm-trees of mighty 



A VILLAGE CHURCH. 259 

growth, iii which the irreligious rooks cawed 
all the Sunday morning, as if in mockery 
of their black-coated neighbour the parson. 
These trees formed, too, a favourite play- 
ground for the boys ; and often when the 
poor old man who did duty as sexton, pew- 
opener, bell-ringer, and general official of 
our church took his accustomed nap shortly 
after the beginning of the sermon, it was 
no unusual thing for some of the more 
unruly spirits to creep quietly out of church 
and refresh themselves with a merry chase 
round the old trees, coming back in time 
to hear the wind-up of the clergyman's 
discourse. Sometimes a sudden shout or 
a warning from a wide-awake member of 
the congregation sent the old sexton after 
us, and happy was the youth who escaped 
his skilfully wielded cane. 

These old elms were a pleasant lounge 
for the poor people who were too old or 
too idle for work, and their broad shade 

s 2 



260 THE OPEN AIE. 

fell upon the graves of the forefathers of 
the hamlet, the record of their names and 
ages serving as an easy spelling-lesson for 
their careless descendants. Round the 
hoary belfry the lavish ivy threw its shel- 
tering green wings, and almost hid the 
broad face of the clock, which, however, 
was not a serious matter, as it had stuck at 
half-past twelve since the boyhood of the 
oldest inhabitant, and we measured the 
hour by the shadow of its hands upon the 
rusty figures, and should, I dare say, have re- 
sented any attempt at making the clock go. 
The organ was a great fascination for 
the boys of the village, and the white-haired 
old gentleman who played it was regarded 
by us as a sort of antique magician, a fancy 
which was helped out by the surroundings 
of the organ-loft where he sat; for there 
were two or three curious old rags hanging 
from the ends of long poles, which some- 
body told us had once been flags carried in 



A VILLAGE CHUKCH. 261 

the battle-field by some of those foreigners 
whom Great Britain is popularly supposed 
invariably to conquer. We also gazed 
with even greater admiration at a suit of 
ancient armour hanging in the chancel, 
which had been worn by some former lord 
of the manor, whose achievements were 
recorded on a tombstone beneath, on the 
top of which reposed the image of the 
defunct warrior carved in stone, minus a 
portion of his very prominent nose. 

On high days and holidays we were 
not contented with the organ merely. To 
the great horror of the white-haired magi- 
cian aforesaid, instruments of a more popu- 
lar character were introduced. There never 
was an English village so small as not to 
hold a performer on the bassoon, and the 
carpenter who discourses upon the German 
flute is also inevitable. At such times as 
the revel and fair the clergyman gave a 
special service, and then our bassoon-player 



262 THE OPEN AIK. 

and flautist, together with a gentleman who 
brought out a few uncertain tones from a 
cracked clarionet, and a violinist from a 
distant parish, whose first string always 
broke in tuning his instrument, met four 
of our village musical celebrities, who sang 
respectively soprano, alto, tenor, and bass, 
and the result was an anthem. 

I need hardly say that this was a great 
event in our village, to be talked of for miles 
round, to be rehearsed in a dozen farm- 
houses, and finally to break down in the 
actual performance. As a scape-goat was 
necessary, this result was invariably attri- 
buted to the organist, and it was prophesied 
that some day, when the white-haired old 
gentleman had gone to his rest, and a 
more modern musician supplied his place, 
all would go well; but I remembered 
the anthem many years after this or- 
ganist had vanished, and always as a 
failure. 



A VILLAGE CHUECH. 263 

And what delight for us boys to watch 
the painted windows, especially when a 
sudden ray from the declining sun upon 
an autumn afternoon lighted up the images 
of saints and martyrs with an almost un- 
earthly splendour! Sometimes upon hot 
afternoons we would lounge upon the 
tombstones while the organist was prac- 
tising inside, and very pleasant it was to 
hear the drowsy hum of the instrument 
blending with the murmur of the wind in 
the trees. We were rather shy of the 
place as night drew on, for the strange 
echoes from the owls in the belfry far 
above our heads had a very ghostly effect, 
and suggested visions of long-forgotten in- 
habitants of the village wandering in their 
shrouds amongst the shadows of the dusky 
elms ; and the white tombstones, tipped 
here and there with the silvery glitter of 
a ray of moonlight, had a startling effect 
upon the youthful fancy. Even the brook 



264 A TILLAGE CHUECH. 

that babbled musically but a few yards 
from the churchyard had then a weird 
sepulchral tone, as though it whispered 
awful secrets of the dead in a language 
unintelligible to the living. 

It is many years ago ; but I seem to see 
yet that ancient tower, lonely and gray, 
rising above the sea of foliage that sur- 
rounds it, like some tall rock that serves as 
a beacon to the homeward-bound seaman. 
I seem to hear, as I pen these fond familiar 
records, the bell that trembles in yon hoary 
tower, and sweetly stirs the drowsy air of 
a summer Sunday afternoon. For cen- 
turies, at the self-same hour, it has called the 
peaceful dwellers of that remote village to 
prayer. It has its own lessons in tokens 
gathered to the spot in silence through the 
brooding years, in the crumbling stone, 
the half-effaced inscription, the many 
grassy mounds of other days, and the 
open grave of to-day. 



THE OPEN AIR. 265 



CHAPTER XX. 

COUNTEY HOUSES. 

In selecting a country residence, it must 
be confessed some care is required, or we 
may involve ourselves in many unforeseen 
difficulties. The man who has spent his 
past life in a street where his only pros- 
pect was the front of his neighbour's house 
or factory, generally rushes to the opposite 
extreme, and buys or builds a house upon 
the top of a hill, commanding an extensive 
prospect. It is charming for a time, but 
somehow in a year or two he is often wishing 
it was a little lower down, for he finds the 
ascent daily very fatiguing ; and his friends, 
who formerly visited him two or three times 



266 THE OPEN AIR. 

a week, make trifling excuses, and come 
once in three months. The landscape, too, 
with which he thought never to be tired, 
was more interesting when seen at the end 
of a pleasant ramble. 

The top of a hill is very trying, too, 
when the wind changes to every point of 
the compass in the course of a few hours. 
It is far better to reside with the hill 
behind instead of beneath you. The bold 
ridge of a down or a fine avenue of trees 
between your house and the east wind will 
make a difference of some degrees in the 
thermometer, and perhaps save a few 
chimney-pots and slates in the course of 
the winter. 

Delightful as a river may be for boat- 
ing, fishing, or artistic enjoyment, it may 
be too near for domestic comfort. If a 
tidal stream, it is not pleasant to find three 
feet of water in your wine-cellar on ac- 
count of the extraordinary spring tide. 



COUNTRY HOUSES. 267 

and the novelty and amusement of leaving 
your drawing-room window by means of 
a boat is not compensated by a register of 
the high-water mark upon the handsome 
paper of the walls. There are water-rats, 
too, as well as land-rats, and very vora- 
cious animals they are. I once saw one 
as large as a good-sized lap-dog making 
off with the remains of a cold shoulder as 
big as himself. 

The glimmer of light upon the surface 
of a stream is very apt to be fatiguing; 
and although the most exquisite effects in 
nature are produced with the aid of water, 
and nobody can dare to disparage the 
loveliness of lake and river scenery, yet I 
maintain that they are rather for occasional 
enjoyment than for every-day indulgence. 
A glimpse of a lake or river from a portion 
of the grounds is most effective where one 
can either enjoy it or not, according to the 
mood; but there are many features of 



268 THE OPEN AIE. 

natural scenery which are most enjoyable 
when not forced upon one. A river 
within a short ramble, or a mountain for a 
background to the landscape, we enjoy all 
the more because we can leave them at 
will. I have known one who dwelt all his 
life upon the sea-shore, who, whenever he 
took a walk, always went directly inland, 
and chose the walk that shut out the ocean 
immediately. 

One would not, of course, choose a 
house without any prospect whatever. 
Nothing can be more sombre than some 
country houses, enclosed on all sides by 
trees that rise absolutely above the roof. 
In the summer there is only one solemn 
hue of green foliage, and the subdued 
rustling of the leaves, so charming oc- 
casionally upon a broiling afternoon, when 
indulging in a pleasant day-dream, becomes 
unutterably sad when skies are dull and 
misty, and is certain to make one restless 



COUNTRY HOUSES. 269 

and discontented. The view from the 
house should be of moderate extent, with 
as much variety in it as possible ; the need 
of some human interest will be felt by 
almost everybody. A picturesque bridge, 
occasionally crossed by quaintly-dressed 
countrymen, or by a lumbering waggon 
piled up high with field-produce ; a bold 
group of lofty trees, with a colony of rooks 
flapping about in the topmost branches, 
and the clamour of their noisy parlia- 
ment softened by the distance ; a hoary 
church spire, with a few pleasant meadows 
between to soften down the echoes of the 
peal of bells ; a glimpse of roadway over 
a down, where we detect our friend by his 
grey horse or light-coloured wrapper long 
before we can detect his features ; the 
gables of an old farmhouse or two, or the 
crumbling wall of a ruined fortress, — this 
diversity of objects melting in one pleasing 
whole satisfies us more than one impera- 



270 THE OPEN AIR. 

tive feature which we are compelled to 
gaze upon night and day, winter and sum- 
mer, such as a huge mountain or a broad 
river. Tou cannot be climbing the moun- 
tain or crossing the ferry at every hour in 
the day, but there is nothing to prevent 
you strolling down to the haymakers in 
the meadows a quarter of a mile away, or 
going to meet your friend coming over the 
down, or lounging at the bridge with a 
fishing-rod, or watching the reapers over 
a five-barred gate, or sketching the ruins 
of the castle. These features are near at 
hand, and you can easily share the enjoy- 
ment with others. 

Besides, in such landscapes you are gene- 
rally not too far away from literature and 
music ; a five miles' journey to get a new 
periodical, or twenty miles by train to hear 
a Beethoven symphony, is a penalty too 
severe to pay for love of the picturesque ; 
and in such regions there is no society, for a 



COUNTRY HOUSES. 271 

person accustomed to town will not enter 
into the inner life of a poor fellow who, 
earning his bread by the care of a few 
sheep upon a misty mountain-slope, is 
more accustomed to the companionship of a 
shaggy dog than to that of human beings, 
and whose notions of a dinner are limited to 
a slice of dark-coloured dry bread and a 
draught at some swift little mountain rivu- 
let. You will see his whitewashed hut 
perched under the shelter of a crag at no 
great distance, but he cannot be a companion 
for you ; neither can you, however well dis- 
posed, be of any service to him. Nor will 
you care much for the clergyman who offi- 
ciates at the primitive church two miles 
away ; long companionship with poor un- 
educated people has made him forget much 
of his college training, and when he meets 
you to spend an evening he feels your fresh 
contact with the busy world quite oppres- 
sive. Nor will you fare much better with 



272 THE OPEN AIR. 

the jovial farmer who nods to you as he 
drives home from market ; if you are in- 
clined for a chat with him, his talk is of 
cows and corn, pigs and potatoes; he 
knows nothing of books or pictures; and 
his only approach to science is when he 
hires the steam threshing-machine, and 
unwillingly adopts some patent manure. 
If he happens to be a rich man, and leaves 
such matters to his steward, then his sole 
ambition is the hunting-field or the gun. 

These friendly hints to the town man 
who is desirous to be no longer in " popu- 
lous city pent " are not intended in any 
disparagement of rural habits, but merely 
as a caution not to wander too far at first 
from the trodden path. There are plenty 
of delightful localities where the lover of 
nature can have the fullest enjoyment 
without sacrificing any of those tastes 
which he has acquired in the town. There 
is no greater mistake than to suppose 



COUNTEY HOUSES. 273 

that the habits of half a lifetime can be 
suddenly laid aside like a worn-out 
garment. 

And some of the greatest pleasures of 
country life can only be acquired by de- 
grees. The external features of a rural 
landscape will not be enough of themselves 
to satisfy us. When, by a residence of 
some duration, we have become more 
familiar with the nooks and corners hidden 
behind yonder long range of hills ; when 
we have attended service in that solemn 
old church, or taken a friendly glass of 
wine with the rector in that beautiful old 
house half covered with roses, or lingered 
along the footpath beside that pretty river, 
which flashes here and there between the 
trees ; when we have read-up the history 
of that once famous stronghold of some an- 
tique warrior, of which there are but a few 
fragments remaining, — we have acquired 
that human interest in the prospect which 

T 



274 THE OPEN AIR. 

adds a greater charm than the lover of mere 
beauty is willing to admit. 

In fact, the man who would exchange 
town life for country life had need to be 
somewhat elastic in his taste, for he must 
take what he can get in many instances, 
whether in religious matters or butcher and 
baker. He cannot, for instance, if a Pu- 
seyite clergyman establishes himself at the 
parish-church, go into the next street, and 
enjoy the " warm without sugar" logic of 
the whitewashed chapel. Country-people 
are shy of attacking the church, and our 
new-comer from the town, who proposes a 
deputation to the Bishop, will most likely 
find himself scantily supported, — and out of 
the half-dozen he has drummed up, one or 
two at least will back out at the last 
moment ; so after a great deal of talk, and 
after many letters have been written, with 
perhaps a stirring appeal to the local jour- 
nal, the matter dies out, and there are 



COUNTRY HOUSES. 275 

lighted candles, incense, genuflexions with- 
out number, and services at unearthly 
hours, till half the congregation stay at 
home or turn dissenters. 

But believe not, gentle reader, if you have 
a genuine love of the country, that these or 
worse stumbling-blocks will hinder your 
enjoyment. There is a glory in the sky, 
a splendour in the change of the seasons, a 
wonder and mystery in the opening of the 
bud and flower, a spirituality in the break 
of day, a calm and soothing influence in 
the radiant hues of the sunset, a joyous 
exhilaration in the flash of the oncoming 
wave, which all the folly and perversity, 
all the blindness and selfishness, of man 
can neither weaken, change, nor destroy. 



t 2 



276 THE OPEN AIE. 



CHAPTER XXI. 



ON TEAMP. 



The passion for going immense distances 
in search of the picturesque has almost 
given a death-blow to pedestrianism. Being 
inspired by a most amusing article by 
Albert Smith, describing how, with a 
merry companion, he walked through 
Switzerland into Italy, spending only three 
or four pounds each, and enjoying them- 
selves immensely, I tried the experiment 
upon a smaller scale in North Wales ;, and 
though I met with no startling adventures, 
such as sliding down a glacier, and burying 
myself in a hundred feet of snow, or saving 
myself by a hair's breadth upon the very 



ON TEAMP. 277 

edge of a precipice by holding on like grim 
death with my alpenstock, I found amuse- 
ment enough to give me many a pleasant 
memory since. 

There were mountains to climb which, 
if they were not covered with snow, gave 
one landscape-glimpses which are not 
possible in Alpine regions. There were 
waterfalls which, if not dissipated into mist 
by the depth of their descent, were ex- 
tremely picturesque ; and the brilliant 
foliage upon the banks of the streams, to- 
gether with their irregular course, at one 
moment almost hidden from sight by dense 
masses of wood, at another expanding into 
little flashing pools, where the shadow of 
some tall peak was mirrored all the tran- 
quil autumn afternoon, afforded a great 
variety of subjects for the poet and sk etcher. 
Not Wales only, but thousands of places 
little visited by the regulation tourist, serve 
admirably for those who have a fancy to 



278 THE OPEN AIR. 

go on tramp. Glorious effects of colour 
and outline may be discovered upon the 
Yorkshire moors; and when one is tired 
of the wild scenery of heather-clad open 
country, there are fine old ruined castles 
in picturesque situations, full of beauty and 
historical interest; rivers not to be surpassed 
in their graceful windings, varied by rock, 
wood, and tiny islands; fine hills, too, 
where one can sit down to an al-fresco 
repast, looking out over thirty miles or so 
of really exquisite scenery. 

And a great deal of this unworn beauty, 
undefiled by the music-hall echoes of the 
gaping Cockney, and with no ugly brick- 
and-mortar imitation Gothic stuck upon 
the best points of view, is out of the way 
of fast-going tourists, and can only be 
seen to advantage by the humble lover of 
the picturesque who uses his own eyes and 
his own — legs. 

Let him carefully choose his ground, 



ON TEA.MP. 279 

and begin by walking ten miles a day at 
a very steady pace, and, if blessed with 
good health, by the end of a week he will 
knock off twenty miles a day with as much 
ease as he formerly took a stroll in Ken- 
sington Gardens, 

Then, on tramp, one is not bound to con- 
ventionality of costume. Many a comfort- 
able wayside inn will open its doors to the 
tourist on tramp, and give him a heartier 
greeting than he would receive if he stopped 
in a grand carriage at the Universal Hotel 
Limited, and forty waiters were bowing 
him up the grand staircase. In the grand 
hotel they would be merely studying the 
length of the new-comer's purse. In the 
picturesque inn the rosy-faced landlady or 
her handsome daughter would most likely 
invite him to the parlour behind the bar, 
and he would feel at home in a moment, 
while the jovial host, over his pipe, would 
with a knowing wink tell him what bend 



280 THE OPEN AIR. 

of the river would suit him if an angler, 
or give him a good word to somebody in 
charge of a fine old castle or picture-gal- 
lery, or, if he chooses to linger a day or two 
in the place, very likely give him a few 
hours' capital shooting. 

And if a tourist would discover a par- 
ticularly good sauce for his meat, let him 
take his dinner under a hedge for once. 
If a lover of character, he can hardly pass 
through a country village without finding 
some odd fellow to amuse him with a quaint 
remark or proverb a few centuries old; 
rosy girls will watch him shyly under 
overhanging eaves, and little boys stand 
transfixed with wonder at his knapsack 
and foreign-looking felt hat. 

Never should the pedestrian adopt the 
chimney-pot hat of city life. It will entail 
a perpetual headache, it will be knocked 
over his eyes by overhanging boughs, it 
will create a miniature oven upon the 



ON TRAMP. 281 

crown of his head, it will not permit him 
to indulge in a siesta upon a summer after- 
noon while passing- through a wood, it will 
look seedy after a couple of showers, and 
to put it into his pocket is an impossibility. 
A light felt with a pretty good brim, a 
knapsack made of soft material, and an 
umbrella which will be both a walking- 
stick and a shelter from too fierce a sun, 
boots of pliable leather with thick soles, a 
good knife, and a natty pocket map, and 
if a young fellow cannot find any enjoy- 
ment in two or three weeks on tramp with 
a pleasant companion, I pity him. 

He can easily choose localities. Let him 
get out of the Brighton Railway at Hassock's 
Gate, and make for Ditchling Beacon, high 
up on the downs. Then for half a dozen 
miles he can walk upon turf soft as a carpet, 
scented with wild thyme and other plants 
of grateful odour. He can pass on to 
Lewes, and ramble over the fine cliffs 



282 THE OPEN AIR. 

bordering the sea, and follow the coast for 
many a pleasant mile through quaint old 
fishing villages, and by glorious reaches of 
beach and cliff. Or he can run down fifty 
miles by the Eastern Railway, and take a 
turn in the novel scenery of the Fens, strik- 
ing out upon some spot upon the north 
coast. Or he can follow up the course of 
a river, dropping into some of the ancient 
churches, castles, or family seats which are 
certain to line its banks. If he covets 
more romantic scenery, a month on tramp 
in the Lake Districts or Wales will repay 
him thoroughly. If he wishes greater 
novelty, he may cross to the French coast, 
and be amused to his heart's content upon 
the Normandy coast, where quaint archi- 
tecture, quaint costumes, and quainter 
manners will procure him endless amuse- 
ment at a very cheap rate. 

The tourist on tramp should always have a 
little artistic taste. There are lovely nooks 



ON TKAMP. 283 

and corners in the world, which no guide- 
book has ever noticed ; and the farther he 
gets from railways and high-roads, the more 
numerous they are. 

The pedestrian is not hurried; he can 
loiter to gaze at a sunset till the distant 
hill glows purple with the twilight. He 
can swing his legs over a stile while a 
rustic tells him some comical local history. 
He sleeps like a top, and has an appetite 
like a lion. Whoever is crossed in love, 
swindled by a limited liability company, 
abused by a surly critic, harassed by busi- 
ness worries, or fretful through bad di- 
gestion, let him try two or three weeks on 
tramp. 



THE END. 



CHARLES JONES, PRINTER, WEST HARDINQ STREET. 



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